Challenger Anatoly Karpov and defending champion Gary Kasparov used up most of their ammunition early and charged into a mutually unpromising position yesterday in Game 17 of the World Chess Championship match in Seville.

The queens were off the board by move 26 amid a general, mutual massacre. When the game was adjourned after 42 moves, the position was level, with each player left with a rook and four pawns. A draw seemed inevitable, possibly without resumption of play today.

A draw would leave the match tied, with 8 1/2 points for each player, representing three wins apiece and 11 draws. Kasparov, who will have the white pieces in Game 18 scheduled for tomorrow, enjoys a small overall edge in the tied match. The winner of the 24-game match will be the first to score 12 1/2 points or win six games, but if the contest ends in a 12-12 deadlock, Kasparov will remain champion.

In the first four moves of Game 17, Karpov cleverly managed to maneuver Kasparov out of the Gru nfeld Indian Defense that has been his standard response to Queen's Pawn openings in this match. This was an interesting technical exercise, but it did not really matter to Kasparov; his results with the Gru nfeld have not been spectacularly positive, and the alternative defense, the King's Indian, has been his main weapon since early childhood.

Karpov's maneuver had the same effect as forcing a baseball player to play football, only to discover that, like Bo Jackson, he is good at that, too. Karpov's reason for diverting Kasparov into a King's Indian was simple; the challenger likes space, and King's Indian players have to give up space for the purpose of creating complications in the middle game.

Kasparov answered the solid 9. Nd2 with a defensive idea that was invented in the early 1970s by American grandmasters Robert Byrne and Lubomir Kavalek. The idea behind the defense is that black will remain with only one weakness: the pawn on d6. This allows him a wide range of choices; he does not have to complicate the game at all costs, and he can go into an endgame without fear.

After 42 moves, the pawn on d6 remained weak, but it was the only weakness in Kasparov's position, and there did not seem to be any winning chances for Karpov.

The middle game, in the time-honored King's Indian tradition, saw white marching his pawns on the queenside, while black tried to get some play on the kingside and to unblock the square e4. He achieved that through many exchanges, which Karpov did not mind.

After 33 moves, in the rook endgame, Kasparov tried to force some counterplay. Had Karpov played 34. Rxd6, then after 34. ... Rf4, Kasparov would take back the pawn on c4 and stir his rook into activity.

Having denied Kasparov entry to the f4 square, Karpov had a slight advantage that he kept until adjournment. But the advantage is microscopic and theoretical with no evident practical value.