Yesterday, for the first time in the current world chess championship match in Seville, one of the players opened with his king's pawn. It was defending champion Gary Kasparov who finally ventured, in Game 10, into what used to be the most common opening move in chess. Later, after 20 rather peaceful moves, Kasparov offered a draw and challenger Anatoly Karpov accepted it.
To many observers, Kasparov's draw offer may seem a bit premature. But he can be excused because he had to rush to a business dinner with officials of the Grandmasters' Association, of which he is the president. The same group will have a lunch today with Karpov and will discuss plans for the Chess World Cup competition and how to involve more players in games against the world's top grandmasters.
Meanwhile, the score of the match has moved up a notch, leaving the players tied at 5-5, with two wins apiece and six draws. The first player to win six games or score 12 1/2 points will be the winner; Kasparov remains champion if the match is tied at 12-12.
Although it was a brief draw, Game 10 was not completely uneventful, and it may have ushered the match into a new phase. Kasparov decided that he had played enough of the English Opening, at least for now, and tested Karpov's response to 1. e4. It turned out to be a variation of the Caro-Kann Defense with which Karpov made his main stand earlier this year in his final candidates' match against Andrei Sokolov. He began to use this variation after he had disappointing results with the Zaitsev Variation of the Ruy Lopez.
The Caro-Kann is not a very ambitious defense, but it is well suited to a match strategy in which the player tries to win with white and draw with black. Kasparov's chosen response is a solid one that left him, after the seventh and eighth moves, with two bishops (only a microscopic edge in this variation) and a small spatial advantage. Later, when Karpov took a bishop with a knight, Kasparov tried to exert pressure along the f-file. But the pressure was illusory and there was no way to break into Karpov's position.
This may not be the champion's final word on this opening. The exploration of the Caro-Kann may be in a phase like the discussion of the Gru nfeld at the beginning of the match. Karpov started with the rather unambitious Shatar Variation against this defense before sharpening his play later with the Exchange Variation.
Meanwhile, Karpov has the white pieces in Game 11, which is scheduled to start on Monday.
Grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek contributed to this report.