World chess champion Anatoly Karpov took a quick advantage in his match with challenger Victor Korchnoi yesterday in Merano, Italy, winning the first game in 43 moves. At the beginning, the game -- a queen's gambit declined -- was a replay of the first game of the 1978 match in the Philippines between the same two players. But Karpov seized the initiative. After two clumsy queen moves by Korchnoi, Karpov's queen had a commanding position in the middle of the board by move 17, while Korchnoi's was hidden in an inactive corner. Karpov disrupted Korchnoi's pawn structure with captures on moves 18 and 25, and threatened to win a decisive pawn. Korchnoi defended ingeniously, but he was slowly pushed into a hopeless position.

It was the third time since 1975 that the two players had been matched with the world championship at stake, and the second time Karpov was defending the title against Korchnoi. The challenger, wearing a blue pin-stripe suit and a nervous look, sat in a leather chair on the white side of the chessboard. Karpov, supported by a large Soviet delegation, seemed relaxed. Both players were born in the Soviet Union, like all world chess champions since World War II except for the American, Bobby Fischer. But for the second time in their three matches, Karpov, a loyal Soviet citizen, was facing not a compatriot but a defector. Korchnoi defected in 1976 during a tournament in Holland and has since been trying to have his wife and son released from the Soviet Union. His son, Igor, is serving 30 months in a Soviet prison camp for refusing military service. His wife, Isabella, has repeatedly been refused exit visas.

Neither player smiled and they did not shake hands, as grandmasters usually do when they begin a game. Korchnoi is playing under the flag of his adopted country, Switzerland, and he is closer to home than Karpov: Merano is a mountain resort in the German-speaking part of northern Italy that the Italians call Upper Adige and the Austrians call South Tyrol.

The game's early moves were not the only replay -- with variations -- from the 1978 match in the Philippines. A few minutes after play began, Victoria Shepperd walked into the auditorium with two colleagues, all dressed in the saffron robes of the Ananda Marga sect, and took a seat in the front row. Members of this offshoot of Hindu mysticism had helped Korchnoi during his last match with Karpov. They taught him ways to relax and meditate, and Korchnoi believes they shielded him from the baleful emanations of a parapsychologist imported by the Soviets to disturb his thinking. Just before he lost the match in the Philippines by the closest possible margin, the Ananda Margas were barred from the playing site because some of their members were suspected in the attempted murder of an Indian diplomat.

Shepperd recently was cleared of these charges in a Manila court of appeals. "They brought her here to frighten us," said Victor Baturinsky, head of the Soviet delegation, yesterday.

Despite Karpov's early victory, it might be a long time before either player racks up the six victories needed to clinch the world title. In past matches with Karpov, Korchnoi has shown amazing tenacity and resourcefulness in underdog positions. But theoretically, time is working for Karpov. Championship chess, played with high concentration for five-hour stretches, demands as much stamina as an athletic competition, and Karpov is by 20 years the younger.

Following are the moves of the first game of the world championship chess match, won by champion Anatoly Karpov yesterday in Merano, Italy. White: Korchnoi; Black: Karpov.

1. c4, e6; 2. Nc3, d5; 3. d4, Be7; 4. Nf3, Nf6; 5. Bg5, h6; 6. Bh4, 0-0; 7. e3, b6; 8. Rc1, Bb7; 9. Be2, Nbd7; 10. cxd5, exd5; 11. 0-0, c5; 12. dxc5, bxc5; 13. Qc2, Rc8; 14. Rfd1, Qb6; 15. Qb1, Rfd8; 16. Rc2, Qe6; 17. Bg3, Nh5; 18. Rcd2, Nxg3; 19, hxg3, nf6; 20. Qc2, g6; 21. Qa4, a6; 22. Bd3, Kg7; 23. Bb1, Qb6; 24. a3, d4; 25. Ne2, dxe3; 26. fxe3, c4; 27. Ned4, Qc7; 28. Nh4, Qe5; 29. Kh1, Kg8; 30. Ndf3, Qxg3; 31. Rxd8ch, Bxd8; 32. Qb4, Be4; 33. Bxe4, Nxe4; 34. Rd4, Nf2ch; 35. Kg1, Nd3; 36. Qb7, Rb8; 37. Qd7, Bc7; 38. Kh1, R:b2; 39. Rxd3, cxd3; 40. Qxd3, Qd6; 41. Qe4, Qd1ch; 42. Ng1, Qd6; 43. Nhf3, Rb5; and white resigned.