After an overnight analysis, Anatoly Karpov yesterday resigned Game 14 of the World Chess Championship match without playing any further moves in his hopeless adjourned position.
With that gesture, Karpov, 35, surrendered all realistic hopes -- at least in this match -- of regaining the title he won in 1975 and lost last year. He can and surely will continue to struggle through the remaining games in Leningrad, but it is highly improbable that he can get the necessary three wins in the last 10 games after winning only one of the first 14.
Gary Kasparov, the 23-year-old champion, took a one-point lead in Game 8 of the match, with two won games to Karpov's one. His third victory, which makes the score 8 to 6, gives him a margin of safety that seems practically unbeatable.
"The position of Karpov is now very difficult," grandmaster Alexei Suetin of the Soviet Union told reporters in Leningrad in one of the understatements of the year. At this point, Kasparov has only to score four points to keep his title. This can be done by winning four games (at one point each), which is improbable, or by drawing eight games (at a half-point each), which is more likely. A combination of wins and draws is the most likely projection for the champion.
A series of draws would be the easiest way of winning. In his first match with Karpov, Kasparov showed he could play more than twice as many draws as he now needs, one after another. But it is not likely that all of the next eight games will be drawn; Karpov will probably lose at least one more. He may also win one and he will certainly try to produce some surprises as the match situation forces him to take more and more chances. Although the outcome is virtually assured, the prospect is that the final games will produce some exciting chess.
Perhaps because there seems to be so little doubt that Kasparov will retain his title, experts are already beginning to assess the match and its significance. Soviet chess writer Vladimir Pimonov commented yesterday in Moscow that this meeting has been characterized by a calmer, more professional atmosphere than were the first two between Kasparov and Karpov. "This has been good news for chess fans and specialists," Pimonov said.
According to Pimonov and others, this match has proven Kasparov's skills in ways that the other two did not. In their first encounter, a 48-game marathon, Karpov took an early lead, only to see Kasparov catching up as the match went on. The follow-up match was considered by many to be a war of nerves won by Kasparov, rather than proof of his dominance over the longtime champion.
Asked to evaluate the situation after 14 games, Pimonov said, "This is the crucial moment in the match." But he added that no one had ever won the championship after being as far behind as Karpov is now.
Both players were very cautious in their statements yesterday. Kasparov allowed himself a small moment of triumph, remarking, "I knew it would be like this" after he sealed his 41st move (Nc5) on Monday. But later he assumed an air of modesty for the press: "It was a very fighting game. Of course I am an optimist and I hope to win this match, but we have to wait another 10 games."
Karpov was properly chastened but still tried to sound optimistic. "Of course the position was lost," he said. "I played badly under time pressure. Kasparov won the battle, but the chess war still continues. I will try my best in the last 10 games."
The statements seemed to imply that both players expect the match to go to its limit of 24 games. At this point, that can happen only if Karpov wins at least two more games.
And as Pimonov commented yesterday, the champion "seems to have found the key to Karpov's game."Washington Post staff writer Celestine Bohlen in Moscow contributed to this report.