Game 7 of the world chess championship was adjourned yesterday in Seville, Spain, with challenger Anatoly Karpov holding a strong -- perhaps winning -- advantage over defending champion Gary Kasparov. Karpov already enjoys a one-point lead in the match.
In Game 7's adjourned position, with Karpov's 42nd move in a sealed envelope to be opened when play is resumed today, Kasparov's king is crowded into a corner with Karpov's menacing queen only two squares (a knight's move) away. Kasparov has two pawns more than Karpov, but Karpov has a rook against Kasparov's bishop. If the white rook could be navigated to the h5 square (a simple two-move maneuver), Kasparov would be mated. But Kasparov can harass Karpov's king with queen checks if the rook is moved away from the back rank.
Teams of experts working for both sides will examine the position intensely overnight to see whether Karpov can force a win. Immediately after the adjournment, the prospects were not completely certain, but it was obvious that Kasparov was struggling for his life and the worst that could happen to Karpov was a draw.
A victory for Karpov in Game 7 would make the score 4 1/2 to 2 1/2 in his favor. The 24-game match will be won by the first player to win six games or to score 12 1/2 points, with draws counting half a point. Kasparov keeps his title if the match ends in a 12-12 tie.
For the first 15 moves, this game was a replay of Game 5, which was won by Karpov after Kasparov got into time trouble. This game marked the 13th time Karpov and Kasparov have played the Gru nfeld Indian defense in the more than 100 games they have played against each other.
At the scene of the match in the Teatro Lope de Vega in Seville, experts were puzzled at the choice of opening, feeling that this variation was played out long ago. Some thought that Kasparov might have chosen to play his 13th Gru nfeld at this tense time when he is a point behind because he is superstitiously fond of the number 13.
He has no reason to be fond of the Gru nfeld, however; their first 12 games with this opening have resulted in eight draws and four wins for Karpov. On the other hand, analysts point out that Kasparov actually enjoyed an advantage in his last Gru nfeld, Game 5, before he got himself into time trouble after forgetting to punch his clock.
Karpov's choice to replay Game 5 indicates that its distinctive move, 12. Bxf7ch, was not a one-shot idea but something prepared and analyzed deeply before the match. Kasparov was the one who departed from the previous game with 16. ... Rd8, which forced a defensive sequence on Karpov for the next four moves.
In the middle game, in exchange for the pawn he had yielded in the opening, Kasparov was enjoying a free ride on the white squares, but he needed something more -- either to create pressure on Karpov or to secure more freedom for his own pieces. Karpov's philosophy was easy to understand: By taking a pawn earlier, he could use his material advantage to block the activity of Kasparov's pieces, and he could also keep the pawn as a chip to be traded later. It is axiomatic among masters of the game that hanging on to extra material can be deadly. Karpov knew this; he also knew that when a decisive moment came, he could always return the pawn if he wanted to develop some other ideas.
Kasparov's 21. ... h6 indicated that he was ready to activate his hemmed-in bishop, but Karpov knew his opponent too well to let him put the bishop into active play. After 22. gxh6, Bxh6, Kasparov's bishop would have entered the game decisively. So instead, Karpov used this moment to counter with a three-move sequence pinning the black knight on c4.
Once again, Karpov managed to weaken the position of the black king -- as he had done in Game 5, where Kasparov had some attacking ideas on the kingside, only to die there later. For three moves beginning with his 28th, Kasparov had an opportunity to play a forcing move, ... h3. Instead, he came up with an exchange sacrifice, trying to build a fortress and remove most of Karpov's pawns from the board. But his king was still in danger, and Karpov began closing in for a possible kill.
In the segment leading up to the adjourned position, Karpov balanced two ideas: mating threats combined with offers of a queen exchange. Kasparov, with his opponent's queen presented enticingly for capture, had to decline; after an exchange of queens, Karpov's rook would have had a decisive endgame advantage over Kasparov's bishop. But in running away from the offered exchange, Kasparov had to let Karpov strengthen his position.
Grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek contributed to this report.