Chess champion Gary Kasparov retained his title yesterday by playing to a draw in Lyon, France. With the score of the world championship match at 12-10 in Kasparov's favor after Game 22, the best challenger Anatoly Karpov can now achieve is a tie that will leave the title in Kasparov's hands.

Although the title has been settled, Game 23 of the 24-game match is scheduled for Saturday, with Karpov playing white. Still to be decided is the distribution of the $3 million prize fund. If he reaches a score of 12 1/2 points, Kasparov wins $1.7 million and Karpov gets $1.3 million. A win by Karpov in Game 23 would push the match to its limit. If the final score is 12-12, each player gets $1.5 million.

This was the third comeback attempt Karpov has made since losing the title to Kasparov in 1985. Such staying power and resiliency is unusual in the history of the championship, though Mikhail Botvinnik won and lost the championship three times between 1948 and 1963.

Karpov will be seeded into the elimination matches for the next championship in 1993, but he may be eliminated by one of the young hotshots who have been coming up in the past few years. He will be 42 years old, and world-class chess, which demands great physical stamina as well as a special kind of intelligence and fighting spirit, is essentially a young man's game. So this may have been the two players' last encounter with the world championship at stake.

After the game, Kasparov told Reuter he will be happy when the match is over.

"It was a good game, a well-played game -- it was an important game," he said. "I was very nervous. I didn't know what to do -- to play for a win or play for a draw. My life became much easier because I got the worse position and I definitely had to fight for a draw."

Kasparov said he won because "I play chess better than Karpov. That's the most important reason. I'm a very good professional player now."

Kasparov was favored by about four points entering the match, after recent tournament results catapulted him to a rating of 2800 -- the highest in chess history, eclipsing the 2785 achieved by world champion Bobby Fischer in the 1970s.

Karpov dominated the game for a decade after he won the title from Fischer by forfeit in 1975. When Kasparov defeated Karpov in 1985 (after playing a total of 72 games in two matches), he became, at 22, the youngest champion in the game's history.

In Game 22, for sentimental or other reasons, the players returned to the opening played in Game 4 in New York: the Zaitsev Variation of the Ruy Lopez with 18. exf5. This time, Karpov did not repeat 18. ... Nf6 from the earlier game but chose to take the pawn on d5 with his bishop (18. ... Bxd5).

The position became very complicated, possibly as a result of home analysis by Karpov. After 19. ... Bf7, Kasparov rejected 20. Nxd6, because of 20. ... Rxe1ch, 21. Nxe1, Ne5, which loses the knight. Instead, he decided to take the sacrifice pawn. With his 20th move, Karpov was ready to push his central pawns, knocking white's centralized pieces from their attacking positions. For this opportunity, he temporarily sacrificed a pawn. Kasparov generated tremendous pressure, especially with 23. Na2, forcing Karpov to sacrifice a second pawn. Without much to lose in this situation, Karpov obliged and, after the second pawn sacrifice and 27. ... d3, his two central pawns looked threatening.

It also looked like Karpov would be able to pick up one or both of Kasparov's weak b-pawns. But Kasparov is known for sometimes throwing water on places where the fire has not even started, and he managed to reverse the initiative with his 29. b3, a prelude to a piece sacrifice. After 31 moves, Kasparov had three pawns for the piece, a quite adequate material balance, and Karpov's only two remaining pawns were on the kingside with no perceptible future.

At that point Kasparov's strategy was to trade down, reach a draw and secure his title, but he still had to play quite vigorously. When Karpov had only seven minutes left on his clock, Kasparov forced a draw with 39. Bd4, starting a combination calculated to pull Karpov's queen away from its solid defensive position on e7. Karpov had no choice but to move the queen and allow the perpetual check.

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