Gary Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov met the press without meeting each other today. Kasparov, the current world chess champion, and Karpov, the former champion and current challenger, held separate press conferences in the ballroom of Piccadilly's Park Lane Hotel, where they will play the first half of their match for the world title.
Both were cautiously confident about their chances.
"I have the confidence," Kasparov said. "I will try to do my best, but I can't promise you."
"Psychologically, I think our chances are equal and we are more or less in the same position," Karpov said. "I will try my best, and if my opponent does the same, you will see a real match that will please everybody."
Both players also went through a 24-item checklist of match arrangements and facilities, giving their approval of items that ranged from the intensity of the lighting to the table, chairs, board, pieces and toilet facilities.
Only one point remained unresolved at the end of the day: where the players' delegations should be seated in relation to the players' normal line of sight when they are sitting at the table and considering a position.
Each player spoke for about half an hour, with a short intermission between Kasparov's departure and Karpov's arrival. Both answered questions primarily through a translator, though each spoke a few sentences in fluent, Russian-accented English. And neither produced any real surprises or tried to rock the boat in what is shaping up as a well-mannered match.
Both players admitted to personality conflicts but did not emphasize the point.
"When two champions meet, of course there are clashes of personality and style," Kasparov said.
"There may be personal antagonisms, but they are not very important and they are temporary," Karpov added.
Kasparov said both players will contribute their prize money (totaling more than $900,000) to aid the victims of the Chernobyl disaster. He claimed credit for originating the idea in a letter written early in June.
Karpov, seeming more relaxed than he used to be as champion, outpointed his adversary in humor. Before giving a serious answer to a question about his physical conditioning for the match, he said, "I did not come here for a weight-lifting competition. If I had, I probably could not beat most of the people in this room."
The roomful of largely out-of-shape journalists shared a laugh with the ex-champion, who is 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs about 140 pounds.
Kasparov did show his sense of humor in answer to a question about fans. He is not sure about London fans, he said, but "in my home town of Baku, I certainly have a large lead."
Asked whether he is getting tired of seeing Kasparov's face across the chessboard after 72 games and nearly two years of match competition, Karpov shrugged and said: "As long as Karpov and Kasparov are the two best players in the world, they might as well get used to one another . . . The only alternative would be if one of them is not allowed to play."
In answer to the same question, Kasparov said, "Unfortunately, I cannot choose my opponents."
Karpov's press spokesman, Yugoslavian chess journalist Dmitrije Bjelica, read a potentially controversial prepared statement at the conference, accusing the press of "injustices" toward Karpov, primarily because his style is not considered exciting. Bjelica suggested that Karpov's style is "probably of the next century" and pointed out that during the last 10 years the authoritative magazine Chess Informant has given him more citations for brilliant games than any other player.
But then Karpov began to speak for himself, and the statement was not referred to again, except when the phrase "wicked press" was used jokingly in several questions. Asked to characterize his own and his opponent's styles, Karpov said both have gone beyond the early influence of former champions (Jose R. Capablanca for Karpov, Alexander Alekhine for Kasparov) and developed styles of their own. "Kasparov has a very strong sense of initiative . . . I'm very tenacious in defense," he said.
Kasparov was asked why he had agreed to play this third match with Karpov after publicly saying he would not.
"I thought about it a lot before deciding," he said. "In the end, I decided to play chess rather than waste time in public discussion. I think that is the best way to keep good nerves and good health."
Since arriving in London, Kasparov said, he has been playing badminton to keep in shape physically. In earlier training, his physical activities included swimming, soccer, running and jumping.
Asked whether chess is a sport, an art or a science, Kasparov said, "Chess is what you want to see in it."
One question found Kasparov without a ready answer. "What will you do if you lose?" asked a voice from the audience, and the world chess champion shook his head.
"I don't want to relate to that now," he said.