SEVILLE, SPAIN, OCT. 14 -- Chess champion Gary Kasparov lost Game 2 of the world title match here today with a blunder that would have dismayed even the rankest beginner.
His downfall came on a matter of match procedure, not of tactics. After making his 26th move, he forgot to punch his clock. Challenger and former champion Anatoly Karpov sat calmly for three minutes, thinking on Kasparov's time. At last, with only one minute left to make 14 moves, Kasparov suddenly realized what he had done.
He quickly stopped his clock, but the psychological effect was visible. While Karpov looked on coolly, Kasparov self-destructed in the frantic closing minutes of the game. He kept shaking his head and gesturing with his hands, and it became obvious that he was out of the game. In the next four moves, he was decisively outplayed, and he resigned two moves later.
Throughout the beat-the-clock final flurry -- throughout the game, in fact -- the psychological pressure on the two powerful chess antagonists may have been increased by the frequent screams and cries from a cat (a black cat) that somehow got trapped beneath the stage.
The match score now stands at 1-0 in Karpov's favor, following a draw in the opening match, and the title will go to the first player who wins six games or to the one with the higher score after 24 games. If the score is tied after 24 games, Kasparov will keep the title, but Karpov's early lead gives him a strong tactical and psychological advantage. He can now relax and accept draws more easily than the champion, who will have to press for victory whenever possible.
At this point in the match, the key question is whether Kasparov can come back from the shock of today's time lapse for the next game, which is scheduled for Friday. He may choose to take one of three timeouts each player is allowed, but if he does play Friday, it is likely he will do so cautiously, simply trying for a draw until he is sure his nerves have settled.
Earlier in the game, Kasparov had spent more than an hour and 20 minutes -- more than half the two hours and 30 minutes each player is given to make 40 moves -- thinking about one move, his 10th. That followed Karpov's introduction of a brilliant new move, 9. ... e3, offering a pawn sacrifice.
The game began with the subtle, tricky English opening, which the players used once last year in Leningrad and five times in their first match in Moscow -- always to a draw. For weeks before the match, a question preoccupying chess fans was whether Kasparov would start his first game with white by playing 1. e4 or 1. d4. When he made his first move (two precious minutes late after chivalrously waiting for Karpov, who often arrives a bit late), the question was answered: No. He opened with 1. c4.
This choice seemed at first to surprise Karpov, who took seven minutes to choose his reply, leading into the four-knights variation. But Karpov had clearly prepared for the English opening in the months before the match. The innovation he introduced, 9. ... e3, is not the sort of thing that pops into one's mind spontaneously, even at the world championship level.
After Kasparov's long-awaited reply, 10. d3, Karpov had a choice of two quiet continuations: 10. ... d6 or 10. ... b6, with the idea of putting pressure on white's shattered pawn structure. Instead, he chose the sharp 10. ... d5, the continuation favored by most experts at the scene.
By Move 15, each player was following his own strategic notion. For Karpov, the game appeared more controllable and to his liking if the position remained closed. Kasparov's only chance to stay in contention was to open the position at any cost. Karpov gave him the opportunity by playing 15. ... Qc7 rather than 15. ... b6 followed by 16. ... Bg4 and 17. ... Rc8.
After 16. Bb2, there was no defense against the strong thrust 17. c4. This immediately turned the tide, and it looked as though Kasparov might be gaining a substantial advantage. But with his 19th and 20th moves, Karpov seemed to neutralize the pressure, and with 23. ... Nf5, his advantage began to look decisive; it seemed only a matter of time until he could find a winning sequence of moves.
Kasparov was not quite out of the game as far as his position was concerned, but in the extreme pressure of time shortage and a complex situation, he made his fatal mistake after moving 26. Re1. Even if he had not forgotten to punch his clock and then fallen into psychological disarray, the chances are that Karpov would have won in the final sequence anyway. The point of Karpov's 29. ... Bf3 is that after 30. Rxe8, black can mate with Qf1. Kasparov avoided that trap, but in the final position, he has no defense against 33. ... Qg2, mate. If he plays 33. Qf2, Karpov mates anyway with 33. ... Qd1ch.
It can be argued that there was an element of luck in Karpov's victory, but the challenger provided much of that luck himself with his preparation of a technical innovation that upset Kasparov and cost him precious time. And when the ever-present psychological jockeying between the two finally paid off in Kasparov's three minutes of forgetfulness, Karpov knew exactly how to handle the windfall.
In the plaza outside the Teatro Lope de Vega where the games are being played, there is a heroic statue of El Cid, the embodiment of the Spanish ideal of chivalry, mounted on a horse and holding a lance. If the legendary hero had been playing for the world chess championship here, he might have tapped his opponent on the shoulder and said, "Look, Gary, you didn't punch your clock." But in the 20th century, chivalry is no part of championship chess. In the Middle Ages, for that matter, the historic Cid was less than the perfect knight portrayed in the old epics and ballads. At various times in the long war between Spaniards and Moors, he led armies for both sides.
Grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek contributed to this report.