Patrons who bought $100 tickets for Game 10 of the World Chess Championship in New York last night paid $5.55 per move for an 18-move draw. The game lasted 3 hours and 12 minutes, by far the shortest in the match.
Many earlier games were unusually intense, including an epic 84-move, 10-hour battle in Game 8. Both players have been showing effects of fatigue, with moves that were far below their best form, and many observers predicted that Game 10 would be postponed. The question was which player would ask for the postponemen: Each is allowed three (for any reason including illness), each has already taken one, and the remainder are being carefully stored up for emergencies. As it worked out, they had almost the equivalent of a night off without either player having to pay for it.
This might have been all right 20 years ago in Moscow or Leningrad with a total purse of 20,000 rubles. But with the loser getting $55,000 per game, it looked like inflation getting out of hand. The winner of the 24-game match receives $1.7 million. The loser's share is $1.3 million. The first player to reach a score of 12 1/2 points wins; Kasparov keeps his title if the match ends in a 12-12 tie.
The possibility of a tie (as in their last match, three years ago in Seville, Spain) moved one step closer to reality with this game. The score is now 5-5, with one victory for each player and eight draws.
The playing of this kind of a game on a Friday adds a new note on the role of that problematic day in the match. When a Friday game is postponed, the players have four consecutive days (Thursday through Sunday) when they do not have to spend five hours together; games are normally played on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Games were postponed on the first two Fridays of the match. Game 3 was postponed by Karpov on Oct. 12, obviously because he had lost Game 2 and needed time to recover. Game 5 was postponed by Kasparov on Oct. 19 for reasons that are not clear. Game 7 was played as scheduled on Friday, Oct. 25, and Kasparov was demolished. Now, perhaps, the players have found a modus vivendi for Friday: play something that looks like a game but doesn't take too much energy.
After three exciting games, both players apparently came to this one (played at the Hudson Theatre near Times Square) ready to make peace early. It would have been too much excitement for Karpov to play the Ruy Lopez, so he chose the quiet Petroff defense, a choice of opening that sends the message "let's call it a draw." Kasparov got the message (he is not world champion for nothing) and accepted it when he saw nothing better.
Playing for a draw at the world championsip level, even when both players want it, is like porcupines making love; it must be done very carefully. A small slip can turn a peace conference into a public execution.
Karpov's eighth move must have been a surprise to Kasparov and may have been worth $5.55; it is not even mentioned in the best theoretical work on the Petroff defense. For his first 10 moves, Kasparov spent 40 minutes, Karpov only 18 -- a sign of good opening preparation.
After 15. g4, it looked as if the champion might get the upper hand. Then came the shocker: 15. ... a6 suggested by British grandmaster Nigel Short long before it was actually played on the board. The idea was that after 16. Ba4, b5; 17. Bb3, Nfd4, black is out of danger.
For Kasparov it might have been best to play 16. Bxc6, Bxc6; 17. Rhe1. Then Karpov would have nothing better than 17. ... Bxe4; 18. Rxed, Nd6; 19. Re2 and, because of the weakness of the square e6, white would keep some edge.
Kasparov soon realized that Karpov was out of danger and offered a draw.
The next game in the match is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.
Lubomir Kavalek is a chess grandmaster. Joseph McLellan is a Washington Post staff writer.