The game that gave Karpov the world championship - almost

After six consecutive draws, it appeared the sands of time were running out on Anatoly Karpov in his recent world championship match with Gary Kasparov. The challenger was at the penultimate round, his last chance with White, and he had to score 1 points in the last two games to recapture the crown. Karpov obtained a solid position with good prospects while avoiding any opening surprises. The tenseness of the game was one reason both got into time pressure, both before the adjournment and again upon resumption of play. In a game replete with thorny problems, Kasparov had survived his chief difficulties when he committed one of the worst blunders in world title play. Karpov, almost unable to believe his good fortune, made the most of his opportunities and annexed the point.

Now he needed only a last-game draw to recapture the crown. No player in world championship play had ever lost a last-round encounter when a draw would give him the title.

As we know now, of course, it happened this time as Kasparov rose to the occasion to win the finale and save his title via a tie match. And so the 23rd game, which we showcase today, turned out to be only the first half of one of the most incredible finishes in the history of world title play.

English Opening

Karpov Kasparov 1. P-QB4 (a) P-QB4 2. N-KB3 N-KB3 3. N-B3 P-Q4 4. PxP NxP 5. P-Q4 NxN 6. PxN P-KN3 7. P-K3 (b) B-N2 8. B-Q3 O-O 9. O-O Q-B2 10. R-N1 P-N3 11. Q-K2 R-Q1 12. B-K4 B-QR3 (c) 13. P-B4 N-B3 14. P-Q5 P-B4 15. B-Q3 P-K4 (d) 16. P-K4 (e) N-Q5 17. NxN BPxN 18. B-N5 R-KB1 19. KR-B1 (f) QR-B1 20. B-Q2 R-B2 21. P-QR4 PxP (g) 22. QxP R/1-B1 23. P-B3 B-B1 24. P-R5 (h) B-B4 25. Q-K2 R-K1 26. B-K4 B-KB1 27. Q-Q3 B-B4 28. R-R1 Q-Q2 29. R-K1 Q-B1 30. K-R1 R-B2 31. QR-N1 (i) K-N2 32. KR-QB1 BxB 33. PxB R-B2 34. Q-KN3 PxP (j) 35. BxP R-B5 36. R-K1 Q-R3 37. B-Q2 R-B2 38. Q-Q3 R/K-KB1 39. P-R3 R-B7 40. R-R1 Q-KB3 (k) 41. R-KN1 (l) P-KR4 42. R-R5 Q-K2 43. R-N1 P-R5 44. R-R6 R/1-B2 (m) 45. R-QB6 (n) Q-B1 46. R-N1 B-K2 47. R-K6 K-R2 48. B-K1 (o) R-B8 49. B-Q2 (p) B-B4 50. R-QB6 (q) R/2-B6(r) 51. PxR RxP 52. R-B7 ch K-R1 53. B-R6! (s) RxQ 54. BxQ RxP ch 55. K-N2 R-N6 ch 56. K-R2 RxR 57. BxB P-Q6

and resigns (t)

A.Karpov, in a must-win situation, adopts the psychological ploy of choosing the English Opening, a favorite of Kasparov.

B.Here 7.P-K4 is the variation of the Exchange Gr"unfeld we had seen several times before in this match. The text is a more deliberate buildup.

C.Kasparov characteristically seeks counterplay and eschews 12.... B-N2; 13.BxB, QxB; 14.PxP, BxP; 15.Q-B4, B-B3; 16.B-N2, which favors White, as does 12.... N-B3; 13.P-Q5, P-B4; 14.PxN, PxB; 15.Q-B4 ch.

D.Kasparov counted on this resource, as knight moves are unappealing, allowing White to play 16.N-N5, heading for K6.

E.Karpov avoids 16.PxN, P-K5; 17.BxP, PxB; 18.N-N5, QxP, which favors Black.

F.After this it is clear that White has the superior prospects, as he has possible levers in P-QR5 and P-QB5. His bishops also enjoy greater mobility.

G.Since regrouping his KB is not possible at this time (21....B-B1; 22.PxP, PxP; 23.BxP, RxB; 24.Q-N4 ch), the champion aims for counterplay on the KB file.

H.Karpov plays soundly and avoids the unclear 24.P-Q6, QxQP; 25.B-N4, Q-B2; 26.BxR, BxB, when Black's bishops become active and his extra pawn affords good compensation for the sacrificed exchange.

I.Karpov appears to be marking time until after the adjournment on move 40. Otherwise he might have gone for 31.KR-QN1.

J.Another of Kasparov's double-edged moves. He cedes White a passed QBP, hoping his play on the KB file will afford counterplay.

K.On his last move before the first time control, the champion misses the superior 40.... Q-B1 (threatening R/1-B6). White is then advised to try 41.K-N1, but Black is then more actively positioned than in the game.

L.Karpov sealed this ``safe'' move, but 41.KR-QN1 would gain a vital tempo. White could then strive for B-K1 and B-N3 in some critical variations.

M.A fine move, which vacates a place for the queen in preparation for tripling on the file. It also aids the defense of his king.

N.The KP is poison after 45.R-K6, Q-B1; 46.RxP?, B-Q3; 47.R-K6, R-B8 ch, and White will find himself mated.

O.The KP is still immune from capture. 48.RxP, B-Q3; 49.R-K6, R/2-B6; 50.PxR, R-R7 mate. And on 50.Q-moves, then 50... RxP ch mates.

P.And now capturing the KP costs the queen after 49.RxKP, B-Q3; 50.R-K6, RxR ch; 51.KxR, R-B8 ch; 52.QxR, B-R7 ch.

Q.The text guards against 50... RxR ch; 51.KxR, R-B8 ch; 52.K-R2 (52.QxR, P-Q6 dis ch wins the queen), Q-B7.

R.Kasparov errs horribly, just when his chief problems were behind him. After 50... B-N5, for example, a draw would be the most likely result.

S.This was undoubtedly what Kasparov overlooked.

T.The champion resigned without waiting for 58.B-N4, R-N8; 59.P-Q6, when it is White rather than Black who will queen.

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