Game 8 of the world chess championship was adjourned yesterday in Seville with defending champion Gary Kasparov holding a strong, possibly winning advantage.
Played with power but also with restraint, the game demonstrated how much the 24-year-old champion has matured and learned the art of patience. At the adjournment, he had his opponent nearly immobilized, while he was free to choose moves with relative leisure and tranquillity. The younger Kasparov would already have thrust his hands into the fire.
Possibly euphoric after Game 7, in which he held a draw in a dangerous position, Kasparov pressed a vigorous attack in the English Opening, the only one he has used with white in this match. At first glance, the adjourned position may look like mutual paralysis, resulting from an attempt at mutual strangulation. On closer examination, it looks like a bomb ready to explode.
Kasparov's final move before adjournment, 42. f4, gave Karpov and his team rather clear indications of the strategy they will have to counter in the game's second session today. But even knowing this -- and the move was obvious before it was made -- Karpov is unable to generate effective counterplay.
Kasparov can take advantage of the fact that he has a preponderance of pieces lined up on the black king. His rook on the a-file can reach the kingside in one move, while Karpov's knight on the same file, slower-moving and blockaded, must remain a lonely spectator for several moves. Exactly how Kasparov will use what amounts temporarily to an extra piece will be seen when play resumes today.
Against Kasparov's fourth English Opening in a row, Karpov chose a different and rather static variation. Placing his central pawns on black squares, he made sure that the square d4 would be firmly under his control, while at the same time limiting the scope of his own black-squared bishop.
Kasparov had no problem seizing the initiative on the queenside early in the game, after Karpov's knight became misplaced on the edge of the board. After white controls the center of the board with 14. e4, the usual strategy would be to prepare the move f4. But if black is quick and activates the f-pawn first, white has other strategic choices -- for example, to exchange his black-squared bishop for his opponent's knight, as Kasparov did by move 17, opening the game with his next move, 18. exf5.
Karpov probably didn't like the reply 18. ... gxf5, because of 19. f4, but in avoiding it, he yielded the central white squares to Kasparov. The champion was quick to put his pieces there, and he was comfortably and efficiently set up with his knight on d5, and the bishop on e4, both situated where no pawn could dislodge them.
Before that position was reached, the pieces of both sides moved like puppets in slow motion. Kasparov enjoyed an obvious advantage and Karpov just stayed on the same spot, as if to say, "show me what you can do." It is an idea like Muhammad Ali's "rope-a-dope" style; let your opponent exhaust himself throwing punches. But there is a difference. Unlike a boxing match, the rules of championship chess allow Kasparov to adjourn the game, get a good night's rest and have his team spend the night searching for the best place to aim his decisive blow.
Grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek contributed to this report.