The president of the World Chess Federation flew here today to head off the latest controversy to erupt in the volatile world of chess.
But by day's end, no resolution appeared in sight to the standoff between FIDE President Florencio Campomanes and Gary Kasparov, the 22-year-old Soviet chess genius and, for the past two months, the world champion.
Kasparov insists he will not play his archrival, ex-champion Anatoly Karpov, in a revenge match scheduled for next month because the timing and terms of the match give Karpov an unfair advantage.
"I will not play under the current conditions," said Kasparov in a telephone interview today. "I will play when the conditions are created the same for everybody, and not just for Karpov.
"To be exact, we will not play in February. If we play, we will play next winter," he said.
Campomanes, meanwhile, says the rules are the rules: If a champion refuses to play the return match, he forfeits the crown.
"The regulations are clear," said Campomanes in an interview at a hotel restaurant off Red Square. "I love regulations."
According to Campomanes, no decision will be required of either player until two weeks after Jan. 16, the deadline for a decision on whether the match will be played in London or Leningrad, the two cities that have put in bids. The first game originally was to start Feb. 10.
"There is actually time," said Campomanes tonight, but he would not predict the outcome. "I am the president, not a fortuneteller," he said.
Kasparov has told one local journalist that he is prepared to sacrifice the title over this issue. But today, he noted: "I don't expect the federation to do me ill."
The issue of the revenge match has evoked all the bitter rivalries that have dominated the world of championship chess for the last year.
Once again grandmasters, chess writers and fans are taking sides, and people are wondering who -- Kasparov or Campomanes -- will back down first. "Kasparov cannot go back now," said one fan. "It would ruin his reputation."
Although the feud between Karpov and Kasparov -- considered by far the world's best players -- has been the most obvious, Kasparov and Campomanes have also clashed in public. Many in the chess world expect Kasparov to lead a move to oust Campomanes when the chess federation holds its elections next November.
In a recent interview with the Soviet news agency Tass, Kasparov accused Campomanes of tampering with world title rules to give Karpov a fresh try at the title only three months after he lost it. Kasparov beat Karpov 13 to 11 last November in their second attempt at a world title match.
The arguments over the rules are as arcane as variations on the Sicilian Defense. According to Kasparov supporters, the problem began last February, when Campomanes -- acting on his own authority -- ended the first championship match between Karpov and Kasparov after it had dragged through 48 games.
The unlimited match, a creation of American chess champion Bobby Fischer, meant that title matches could no longer end in a tie, which under the old rules went to the champion. In order to keep some advantage for the champion, the chess federation in the mid-1970s resurrected the concept of the revenge match, which had been in place from 1949 to 1963.
Kasparov and his supporters argue that when the second Karpov-Kasparov title match began in September 1985, this time under a 24-game limit, the champion once again was given the advantage of declaring victory in the case of a tie. By this argument, the revenge match was no longer a valid advantage.
In fact, under a more recent rule change, Karpov will be the last champion to have the right to a revenge match. Were Karpov to play Kasparov in February and win, Kasparov would not enjoy the same right.
Last August, Kasparov signed a document agreeing to abide by the FIDE rules, which included the revenge match provisions.
This document has been cited as a reason why Kasparov is obligated to go ahead with the match. He has argued, however, that he had no choice but to sign the document or forfeit the right to continue his interrupted match with Karpov.
Since his victory Nov. 9, Kasparov has been slowly unfolding his position. He told the French newspaper Le Figaro on Dec. 23 he would refuse to play the revenge match unless the rules were rectified.
In an interview with Tass on Dec. 27, Kasparov called the idea of a rematch "nonsense" and attacked Campomanes for having the rule adopted. Saturday, in a lecture to a capacity crowd at a Moscow sports club, Kasparov again said he would not play a revenge match under current conditions.
Karpov, meanwhile, has kept a relatively low profile, saying in a recent interview in a Soviet newspaper only that he favored Leningrad as a site for the match.
But some chess experts here noted that Karpov is now playing in a low-key tournament in Austria, which they said suggests he does not expect to be in another championship bout soon.
Campomanes tonight justified the revenge match, noting that it had been adopted not by him, but by the federation. "It was not something that was tacked onto this match," he said.
The dropping of the return match after this cycle was also adopted by the federation at a meeting in August. "People who are taking potshots now were there and there was not a peep out of them then," he said.
In general, Campomanes said he has never supported the idea of revenge matches. "Rather, return matches," he added. "I don't like to use the word 'revenge.' "