World chess champion Gary Kasparov and his arch-rival, former champion Anatoly Karpov, have agreed to postpone a controversial rematch from February until next summer, Soviet chess sources said today.

The compromise in the latest bitter issue to divide the chess world emerged after a six-hour meeting Tuesday night at the Soviet Chess Federation. Karpov and Kasparov, both Soviets, were reported to be in attendance.

Kasparov, who won the crown from Karpov in November, had vigorously objected to a rule mandating a rematch with Karpov next month.

The 23-year-old champion, known for his outspoken views and combative approach to the chess establishment, had said publicly that he would not play Karpov unless the rules were changed so that all defeated champions would enjoy the same rights to a rematch.

According to chess sources, the compromise worked out between the two rivals and the ruling circles of chess would give all champions that right.

A rule change, to be submitted to referendum by the membership of the international chess federation (FIDE), also would put the chess championship system back on a three-year cycle rather than the current two years.

If the changes are adopted, rematches -- such as the one expected to start in July -- would be spaced further away from the regular championship matches. As it is now, semifinals already are under way to determine who will challenge Kasparov for his title.

The compromise worked out last night was first broached during the recent visit here by FIDE president Florencio Campomanes, whom Kasparov has accused of favoring Karpov.

Chess sources said no decision has been made on where the rematch will be played. London and Leningrad made bids for the rematch, originally scheduled for February.