Defending champion Gary Kasparov, fighting for survival in the last game of the world chess championship, closed the first session of play yesterday with one fragile pawn more than his opponent, former champion Anatoly Karpov.
Karpov, after a stunning victory Thursday, leads the 24-game match by a score of 12-11. The game, adjourned after 40 moves, will be played out today in Seville, Spain.
Kasparov, playing white, sealed his 41st move yesterday in the 24th game of the match, in a slightly advantageous position. But it is a kind of defensive situation in which Karpov is a virtuoso player.
With a queen, knight and three pawns (all in one corner) arrayed against Kasparov's queen, bishop and four pawns, Karpov seems to have all he needs to hold a draw. And a draw is all he needs to recapture the world championship he lost to Kasparov in 1985.
A Kasparov victory, which is not impossible (after Game 23, nothing seems impossible), would tie the match at 12-12, leaving Kasparov with his title and half of a prize fund of more than $2 million. A draw in this game will win Karpov a prize of $1.35 million as well as the championship. Kasparov would get $812,500 as runnerup.
A crowd of several hundred excited Spanish fans surrounded both players yesterday as they made their way to their separate entrances in Seville's Teatro Lope de Vega. Kasparov was given a one-minute ovation when he took his seat at the chessboard.
He upset expectations that he would go for sharp play in the center of the board, choosing instead a long-range strategy in the Catalan Opening that had been used once by his mentor Mikhail Botvinnik. His aim was obvious: to keep as many pieces on the board as long as possible. And this hypermodern opening is well-suited to such a purpose.
Karpov, on the other hand, was naturally interested in simplification, because fewer pieces on the board might draw him closer to the title.
On Move 13, two bishops left the board and Karpov had piled up three light pieces on the d-file. Kasparov took advantage of this congestion by forcing Karpov to part with his bishop on Move 17. This exchange gave him a lasting initiative; his game was much freer and easier to play.
With 22. Qxb4, Kasparov set up a new target: black's pawn on b6. But it was difficult to attack it advantageously. Karpov's knight maneuvers around moves 27 and 28 were designed to get rid of the pin along the c-file. With 29. a4, Kasparov was able to threaten 30. a5, blowing up the last obstacle. But Karpov acted quickly and by Move 30 he seemed to be out of danger. Then Kasparov made a surprising attacking move: 31. Ne5, temporarily sacrificing a pawn but gaining access for his queen into black's position.
After that, the only surprising move was 36. Qe8. True, this led to a pawn capture, but it might have been better for Kasparov to keep more pieces on the board with 36. Nd6, Qe7; 37. Qb8. In the line he chose, Kasparov won a pawn, but Karpov was able to simplify the position.
If there is any way to victory for Kasparov in the adjourned position, it lies through the advancement of his kingside pawns, trying to break down Karpov's fortress. Although Karpov is a pawn down, the fact that all the pawns are on the kingside gives him a good chance to draw the game and win back his lost title.
This report includes analysis by grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek.