Game 15 of the World Chess Championship ended in a draw after 33 moves -- less, perhaps, because of position than because both players were on the brink of time forfeits.

Defending champion Gary Kasparov, playing black, returned to the Gruenfeld Indian Defense, which had served him well in Game 13, and it was up to challenger Anatoly Karpov either to choose a variation of this opening or to prepare something new. He did the latter with 11. Bh6 and 12. h4.

The move 11. Bh6 cost Kasparov 45 precious minutes (each player has 2 1/2 hours for 40 moves) and proved that Karpov is a better reader than Kasparov. There is no record of this move having been played before, but it was borrowed from former world champion Boris Spassky, who suggested it Monday in the official match bulletin in a comment on Game 13.

Facing some dangerous attacking threats, Kasparov was forced into an early exchange of queens. This brought Karpov's king up the board, well placed for the endgame.

After 18 moves, Kasparov had spent an hour and 38 minutes trying to get some idea of how to put his passively placed pieces into action.

Karpov decided to open the h-file with his moves 19 and 20. Then, with 22. g4, threatening to push this pawn further, he aimed for control of the black squares. That move challenged Kasparov to react, and he did so with the sharp 22. ... e5. At this point, he had 30 minutes for the remaining 18 moves, but he was still able to find a deft rook maneuver, 25. ... Rb7, doubling the rooks on the d-file. This made it more difficult for Karpov to coordinate his pieces, and he used a lot of time. After his 32. Rac4. he had only five minutes left, and Kasparov hit him with 32. ... Re8, threatening to activate his knight. Karpov had allowed it, but suddenly, in time pressure, Kasparov decided to offer a draw.

Throughout the game, Karpov had a slight advantage. Kasparov was able to decrease that advantage as the game proceeded, but it is now quite clear that Kasparov has to do some homework on his Gruenfeld Defense.

After the game, Kasparov and Karpov stayed at the table for several minutes, discussing the game and analyzing alternative possibilities. According to observers on the scene, Kasparov had expressed grudging admiration for Karpov's play in their 14th game Monday and "looked relieved" yesterday when he escaped from Karpov's pressure in Wednesday's game.

This is the eighth straight draw in the match and the 13th of the 15 games played so far. With one victory for each player, the match score stands at 7 1/2 to 7 1/2. The first player to reach 12 1/2 points wins the match and $1.7 million of the $3 million prize fund. Kasparov keeps his title and the money is split evenly if the match ends in a 12-12 tie.

Game 16 is scheduled for Saturday with Kasparov playing white.

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