Publish date:


Senior writer William Nack was in London last week for the opening
of the world chess championship. His report:
Gary Kasparov, the 23-year-old champion, grinned as he swept from
the ballroom of the Park Lane Hotel last Wednesday evening. Minutes
earlier he and his archenemy, Anatoly Karpov, 35, from whom Kasparov
had won the world title last fall, had finished struggling through
the first 41 moves of the second game. The first game had been a
sedate 21-move draw, but the second encounter was filled with flair
and fire, and now the champion was leaving for the adjournment with a
pawn advantage.
Suddenly, one of Kasparov's seconds approached and whispered
something in his ear. Kasparov's smile vanished, and he slapped his
forehead as if to say, ''Oh, no!'' What he had undoubtedly learned
was that he had overlooked a simple but powerful placement of a rook
on the 39th move that would have given him a decisive full-point win
and an early psychological advantage in the 24-game match. Instead,
he and Karpov returned the next day for an extended but fruitless
minuet that ended in a second draw, worth a half-point to each
player. (The first player to score six victories or 12 1/2 points is
the champion.) They would draw again in the third game on Friday,
thereby getting their ballyhooed rematch off to a stalemate start.
When Kasparov slapped his forehead, others did the same, because
there is more going on in London than the mere playing of a game on
64 squares. What has evolved is a power struggle in which two Soviet
players who can't stand each other are vying for political control
of the International Chess Federation (FIDE). This battle beyond the
board dates back to Feb. 15, 1985, when Florencio Campomanes of the
Philippines, president of FIDE since 1982 and a close friend of
Karpov, called off the first of the three matches between the two
players. Karpov was leading 5-3 at the time and needed only one more
win to retain his title, but he had lost two successive games and
appeared, after 48 games in five months, to be on the verge of
nervous collapse. Kasparov was livid. He believed Campomanes and
the Soviet Chess Federation had conspired to rescue Karpov. In a
raucous Moscow press conference, Kasparov shouted, ''They are
trying to deprive me of my chance!''
Last fall's return match was limited to 24 games. With his
victory, Kasparov became more voluble. He charged that an
''international chess mafia'' controlled the game and announced his
support for a candidate challenging Campomanes for the FIDE
presidency, Brazil's Lincoln Lucena. Chess experts predict that
Campomanes will be out by the fall if Kasparov successfully defends
his title, but will probably retain the presidency if Karpov wins.
Lucena is backed by the chess federations of Western countries, while
Campomanes is the favorite of the Third World. The Soviet bloc
appears to be sitting on the fence, waiting to see what happens in
the ballroom of the Park Lane Hotel and, later, in Leningrad, where
the second half of the championship will take place. After a week,
the battle remained even.