Game 3 of the 1990 World Chess Championship match was adjourned last night on an uncertain note, with champion Gary Kasparov sealing his 41st move in a position where he seemed to be looking for a draw. Earlier, he had launched a brilliant sacrificial attack that was turned aside by challenger Anatoly Karpov's defensive skill -- but not before a lot of bloodshed.

Kasparov's brilliant effort in the opening and middle game was worth the cost of the $100 seats. But time ran out on him and time is essential -- time is the enemy -- in this kind of effort, where the complexity of the situation and the need for a perfect series of choices require long, detailed consideration.

No matter how the game ends, when it is resumed at 5:30 p.m. today in New York, it will be treasured as one of the most memorable in world championship history, in which queen sacrifices are not an everyday occurrence.

Kasparov offered the queen sacrifice twice, on his 14th and again on his 15th move. Karpov considered it the first time and prudently decided to castle rather than go after the queen. The second time, he reconsidered, took the queen in exchange for a rook and a knight, and then had to withstand an overwhelming attack. He did everything right, and then it was Kasparov's turn to make a mistake; the champion became more greedy (or ambitious) than his position justified, and at adjournment he was the one working under a disadvantage.

So far in the 24-game match, being played in New York this week, Kasparov is leading 1 1/2- 1/2. Last night's game had been postponed from Friday night at Karpov's request after his devastating defeat in Game 2 last Wednesday. The first game ended in a draw.

One emerging theme of the match, when Kasparov plays black as he does in Game 3, is the King's Indian defense. The champion is likely to stay with this reply to a queen's pawn opening, unless Karpov finds a few holes in it. This time, Karpov chose the Classical variation, maintaining tension in the center with 7. Be3.

Kasparov's answer was designed to force white into blocking the position with 8. d5, but instead, Karpov opened up with a line that was first used 17 years ago in the game Reshevsky vs. Kavalek, in Netanya, Israel, in 1973. In that game, black exchanged knights and was able to equalize only after a great effort. Facing the same situation, Kasparov put his genius to work and developed a brilliant attack highlighted by material sacrifices. Grandmasters present at the game in the Hotel Macklowe on Manhattan's Times Square were amazed and mystified at Kasparov's queen retreat, 9. ... Qd8, which invited Karpov to win some black material. Kasparov had to sacrifice the exchange because after 10. ... Re8; 11. Be7, Rxe7; 12. Nf6 ch, white wins the queen.

Instead, with 10. ... Nxe4, he had a bishop and pawn for his rook, but it was not enough for him. He lured Karpov into a beautiful sacrifice variation. After 14. ... Nc6, there was a temptation for white to play 15. Nb6, attacking the rook and queen at the same time and forcing 15. ... axb6; 16. Rxd7, Bxd7, after which black would be threatening 17. ... e4 or ... Rxa2, getting tremendous pressure in exchange for the sacrificed material.

Karpov was obviously not interested. His sense of safety led him to castle on the kingside. Kasparov went into deep thought and still offered his queen. On second thought, Karpov decided to take the queen, since his king had been moved to safety. But holding off Kasparov's pressure was not an easy task. Soon white's minor pieces were pushed to the first rank and Karpov decided to sacrifice a pawn to activate his pieces. When he finally hit black's rook with 25. Nb4, Kasparov was able to trap his queen in the middle of the board.

After the smoke cleared, by Move 26, Kasparov had two pawns for the exchange and an active position. The question was whether all these advantages could be transformed into a win. By Move 30, Kasparov's pieces totally dominated the board. Then Karpov found the only defensive plan, to create a blockade on the white squares, starting with 31. f3. With 33. Bd3, Karpov was even threatening to break black's pawn chain with 34. h4, but Kasparov quickly closed off this opportunity.

At that time, each player had approximately 10 minutes for his last seven moves. As in the first game of the match, Kasparov became overambitious and, with his move 35. ... b5, opened the door for Karpov to jump out. Soon the white rook was penetrating black's fifth rank, and the world champion had to give up a pawn.

In the adjourned position, Kasparov is now fighting for a draw. White is threatening to make the pawns on f4 and h4 vulnerable targets with 42. gxf4.

Lubomir Kavalek is a chess grandmaster. Joseph McLellan is a Washington Post staff writer.