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Kasparov’s Lapse And Loss Surprises Chess Experts

October 15, 1987 GMT

SEVILLE, Spain (AP) _ Challenger Anatoly Karpov’s brilliant play to defeat Garri Kasparov in the second game of their world title match has been overshadowed by the champion’s dramatic blunder that may have cost him the game.

Karpov now leads 1 1/2 points to 1/2 point in the 24-game series and now enjoys the advantage of having beaten his Soviet compatriot in a game in which the champion had the white pieces.

In a scramble Wednesday with both players short of time, Kasparov played his 26th move but forgot to punch his clock. Had he done so, his clock would have stopped and Karpov’s would have started. Such matches are timed because each player must make 40 moves in 2 1/2 hours.


For almost three minutes, members of Kasparov’s delegation looked on helplessly as his time slowly ticked away. Under the rules, neither they nor the match arbiter could warn Kasparov of his mistake.

When he finally noticed, Kasparov had less than a minute left for 14 moves. As he desperately played move after move, Karpov closed in with a crushing mating attack.

″It’s really a very bad psychological shock,″ Spanish chess writer Fernando Urias said. ″Kasparov has not only lost right at the start of the championship, but he also lost playing with the advantage of white.″

Urias said the loss was peculiar in that it was due to ″almost childish carelessness″ rather than any error on the board.

Experts point out that the psychological state of the players at a world championship match is often the key element in determining who seizes an early lead.

Former world champion Boris Spassky said that after the game Kasparov looked as though a building had fallen on him.

Karpov played tennis Thursday morning, relaxing after his victory.

Seyavush Eganov, head of the champion’s delegation, said Kasparov was fine and the match had only begun.

″Garri said it was all his own fault,″ Eganov said. ″This shows he has a very mature approach.″

Grandmasters watching the startling events could hardly believe their eyes as Kasparov sat hunched over the board, unaware of his clock ticking away.

Karpov gave nothing away. He later told Spanish state television he might have ″made a mistake″ by leaning forward to look at the clock, inadvertently tipping off Kasparov.


Because of the stormy relations between the two Soviet players, no one expected the 36-year-old challenger to tell Kasparov his clock was running.

Swedish Grandmaster Ulf Andersson said in the crucial position, Karpov already had a clear advantage. ″He really played the whole game very well.″

The only similar incident experts could recall in a world chess championship occurred during the 15th game of the 1958 contest between Soviet players Mikhail Botvinnik and Vassily Smyslov.

With only two moves to make in an easily winning position, Botvinnik pondered a move for five minutes and lost the game when his time ran out.

Botvinnik, who held the world title for 13 years, said later he had simply forgotten there was a time clock.

Speaking before the match began, Spassky said Kasparov had not concentrated enough on chess before the contest. He has written a book, is active in promoting chess and has been making a television commercial for soft drinks.

Urias echoed the opinion of many when he suggested Kasparov should take one of his three timeouts, postponing Friday’s scheduled third game until Monday and using the weekend to regain his psychological equilibrium.

But American chess expert Bleys Rose disagreed.

Noting that Karpov had lost on time in the eighth game of their previous title duel, he said Kasparov’s best bet was ″to come back as soon as possible. He’s got to show Karpov that it isn’t such a big deal, that he hasn’t suffered a deadly blow.″

There is a 24-game limit on the match. With one point for a victory and one-half point for a draw, the championship goes to the first player to win six games or to score 12 1/2 points.


EDITOR’S NOTE - David Goodman is a chess expert who has covered the previous Kasparov-Karpov championship matches for The Associated Press.