After five hours of toe-to-toe slugging, Game 15 of the world chess championship match wound down to a complex-looking position yesterday, but one that can easily be simplified. Champion Gary Kasparov, who looks as though he may be in trouble in the adjourned position, actually can force a draw within a few moves.
There are some drawn games -- there have been several in this match -- that spectators might feel both players deserve to lose. This draw would be one that both players deserved to win -- hard-fought, exciting and imaginative, with no quarter given or taken. It was full of combinations in the middle game, with each player pursuing his own strategic plan single-mindedly, trying to force his will on his opponent and almost refusing to notice what the opponent was doing.
Every chess game is a clash of visions. So far in this game, that element stands out more clearly than usual.
Karpov's play was interpreted by experts in Seville, Spain, as a sign that he is being forced into playing Kasparov's type of wide-open game. But if it is not his natural style, he is handling it well.
The game was adjourned after 42 moves, with Karpov, playing white, putting his 43rd move in a sealed envelope at the Teatro Lope de Vega in Seville. Play is scheduled to resume today, but the players may agree on a draw without returning to the board.
In the adjourned position, white can play 43. Bc7, but after 43. ... Rxd7; 44. Nxd7, Kxd7, the position is a theoretical draw. It would also be a draw after 43. ... Rxb8; 44. Bxb8, Kxd7. But Kasparov is likely to take the pawn, rather than the knight, with his rook, because the first combination ends with his king attacking the bishop, giving him a slight advantage of tempo.
In the endgame that would follow, white would have an extra pawn, but black could sacrifice his bishop while clearing all pawns off the board. Then white, with only a king and bishop against a king, would be unable to checkmate.
In recent interviews on Spanish television, Kasparov has said he hoped to force Karpov to take risks when the challenger has the white pieces. Whether Kasparov plans it or not, the logic of the match situation dictates that Karpov must become more aggressive and take more chances; he has to win at least two games to overcome the champion's edge and take the title, and his chances to do so are shrinking.
Surprisingly to many observers, when Karpov goes into a slugging match with Kasparov, he does not seem to be inferior -- though Kasparov has the reputation of a slugger and Karpov that of a subtle master of nuance. In the games Karpov has lost in this match, what failed him was not combinational ability or fighting spirit, but his fabled technique in what looked like quiet positions.
A draw in this game will leave Kasparov still ahead by a score of 8 to 7, with three wins against two for Karpov. The match will be won by the first player to score six wins or to reach a score of 12 1/2 points, with draws counting a half-point. Kasparov remains the champion if the 24-game match is tied at 12-12, thus making his one-point advantage loom even larger in practical terms.
For this game, Karpov returned to the Russian Variation of the Gru nfeld Indian Defense, with which he scored crushing victories during the match last year. This time, he came up with a new plan, first supporting and then pushing his passed d-pawn forward in Moves 12 and 13. Kasparov used nearly an hour more than Karpov to make his first 13 moves.
Passed pawns can make life miserable for the opponent who cannot sufficiently block them, but Kasparov succeeded in doing that, and starting with his 16th move, he immediately fought back, winning space with his queenside pawns. He was able to establish a bridge along the d-file with the point of entry on d3. Karpov had to act quickly, but with his 19. a4, he was ready to undermine black's queenside pawns.
In his calculation, he had to be ready at that time to sacrifice the exchange. He gave it up by Move 22, exchanging a rook for a knight, but was able to amass great counterplay, shattering Kasparov's pawn structure.
Kasparov's pawns looked like pins in a bowling alley when the bowler is not going to make a spare, and Karpov was able to collect all the weak pawns, having at the end two pawns for the exchange. After Move 34, the question remained whether Karpov could do something with his passed d-pawn. He advanced it as far as he could, but at adjournment Kasparov was able to simplify the position to the point where white has no chance to win.
Grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek contributed to this report.