SEVILLE, SPAIN, OCT. 12 -- For most of its length, the opening game of the world chess championship match here was a rather peaceful event, highlighted mainly by a wordless debate over whether or not to call it a draw.

By 7 o'clock this evening in Seville's famous Plaza de Toros, matador Rafael de Paula had managed to kill six bulls -- "six brave and beautiful bulls," as the enthusiastic posters like to call them. About a mile away in the Teatro Lope de Vega, world chess champion Gary Kasparov and challenger Anatoly Karpov had managed to dispose of only a knight and a pawn apiece. An hour later, a pair of rooks bit the dust while Karpov fought for time, trying to escalate a spatial advantage into a winning chance.

But Kasparov's defenses were impregnable, and he even threatened a possible breakthrough, so Karpov finally accepted the inevitable and a draw was declared after 30 moves. Chess will certainly become a blood sport in Seville before this match reaches its limit of 24 games, but today it was more like a skilled and rather abstract dancing exhibition.

This was the 101st game the current and former champion have played against each other since 1983 and the 76th draw. Otherwise, the score stands at 13 victories for Kasparov and 12 for Karpov. Two players could hardly be more closely matched.

For a while in the opening moves, it seemed like old times in London and Leningrad. Kasparov and Karpov returned to the exchange variation of the Gruenfeld Indian Defense, which they had used in the third and 13th games of their match last year. Both of those games, like today's, ended in draws.

Playing black, Kasparov had the choice of defense once Karpov had opened with his queen's pawn. By choosing the Gruenfeld, he kept a public promise that he would play this defense during the present match. That promise was something of a challenge to Karpov and perhaps a gesture of contempt, implying that Kasparov feels untouchable in this opening, even if his plans are revealed ahead of time. Usually, opening strategies are kept secret, and in previous matches Kasparov has always had a new defense ready to spring the first time he plays black. His specification of a queen's pawn opening may also have been meant as a taunt to Karpov, who had trouble with Kasparov's Sicilian Defense when he opened with the king's pawn in some previous games.

This bit of bravado may confirm a prediction made by ex-champion Boris Spassky, who is giving a running commentary on the first few games for an audience in a "casino" room adjoining the 450-seat opera house where the games are being played. During Game 1, he made little effort to conceal his boredom with most of the moves and situations, but he said he believes Karpov has a good chance to win the match because Kasparov may now be overconfident. Still, if his playing a defense announced ahead of time showed confidence, the fact that he easily held a draw showed that confidence was justified -- at least this time. As in boxing, the early rounds of a chess match are usually a time for each player to "feel out" an opponent and look for weak spots. The time for knockout punches comes somewhat later.

Argentine grandmaster Miguel Najdorf, who was born in 1910 and is the oldest living grandmaster, predicted that Kasparov will win the match before Game 20. If one player takes six victories, he will be declared the winner; otherwise, the winner will be the one with the highest score after 24 games.

Both Spassky and Najdorf have made inaccurate predictions in previous matches. Spassky was accused by a friend of "always" making wrong predictions and was asked if he was predicting a Karpov victory so that Kasparov would win. In reply to this proverbially Russian and intricately chesslike suggestion, Spassky replied simply: "Not always."

Kasparov's variation of the Gruenfeld is still fairly new and its possibilities are being explored by several grandmasters. Last December in Brussels, Kasparov gave British grandmaster John Nunn a smashing 19-move defeat in a variation that Karpov carefully avoided today. In turn, Kasparov avoided 10 ... f6, which had weakened his kingside pawn position the last time he used this opening against Karpov.

By Move 15, Karpov had established an advantage of space and had a pair of bishops against bishop and knight. But after doubling his rooks on the only open file, Kasparov seemed prepared to handle any maneuver. By Move 20, a critical moment for assessing middle-game chances, the position seemed fairly even. Then Kasparov began to threaten an entry into the white position, either along the weak black diagonal a3-f8 or through the c-file, where he had concentrated his heavy artillery.

When Kasparov played Nb4 a second time on his 24th move, it was a signal that he was ready to accept a draw through repetition of positions -- one more time and the draw would have been assured. Spectators began moving toward the doors like baseball fans with two out in the ninth inning, and the 100-odd reporters began writing their final drafts.

Then Karpov snapped everybody back to attention. By playing 25. Rc5 and exchanging rooks on the next move, he signaled that he was still looking for something better than a draw. But he lacked leverage to force a win, and when Kasparov began repeating positions again in the new situation, Karpov had to agree, fearing that further attempts to win might put him in danger of losing.

Grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek contributed to this report.