Date: Wed, 5 Jun 1996 7:40:10 PDT Copyright 1996 by Reuters
MOSCOW (Reuter) - Veteran Anatoly Karpov and rising star Gata Kamsky, two grandmasters with roots in the once dominant Soviet chess school, start their battle for one of the rival world chess championships Thursday.
Victory will be tainted by the fact that number one in the
world ranking Garry Kasparov is not challenging because of his
split with the World Chess Federation (FIDE).
The chess world has been in disarray ever since Kasparov broke away from FIDE in 1993 to set up the Professional Chess Association (PCA), taking with him some top players for a rival world championship. As a result, the Karpov-Kamsky match is starting one year later than scheduled and without the media frenzy that went with title matches once cloaked in the terms of the Cold War.
There will be little to match the drama of the 1978 battle
between Karpov, backed by the propaganda and organizational
machine of the Soviet Union, and Viktor Korchnoi, who defected
from the Soviet Union and was seen as an enemy of the state.
Kamsky, 22, who defected to the United States with his
father and coach Rustam in 1988, and Russia's 45-year-old chess
titan Karpov, who used to be the darling -- and part of -- the
Soviet establishment, will play the best of 20 games.
They will do battle every second day and the winner needs to get 10.5 points, with one point for a victory and half for a draw. If they are level after 40 days and 20 games, the match will continue until one of them wins another game. The initial venue, Montreal, was scrapped for lack of sponsors. Moscow also dropped out, largely because of a split in the Russian chess federation between supporters of Karpov and Kasparov.
In a stunning move, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the recently-elected
and controversial head of FIDE, turned to Iraq, whose strongarm
ruler Saddam Hussein was prepared to put up the prize money.
But international criticism caused him to drop the plan and
move the match to Elista, capital of the remote semi-autonomous
Russian region of Kalmykia of which he is the president.
Kalmykia lies between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea,
just north of the breakaway republic of Chechnya.
The prize money -- and some say it comes directly from the
purse of millionaire Ilyumzhinov -- is $2 million.
The organizing committee and press office are being run from the office of public relations firm Satellite Conseil, thousands of miles away, on a barge on the River Seine in a Paris suburb. For many observers, the favorite is Karpov with his vast experience of winning 137 tournaments and nine matches for the world crown -- more than anyone in the history of the game. But others say the age difference and Kamsky's complete devotion -- he is said to have no friends apart from his father and no interests apart from chess -- may give him an edge. Karpov is active in political life and is portrayed by his foes as a hardliner opposed to liberal reforms.
The match is a prelude to Ilyumzhinov's desperate attempts to put FIDE's troubles behind it and lure Kasparov and his friends back into the fold.
The world title awarded in Elista will be short-lived as
FIDE plans a renewed world championship in December, possibly in
Moscow and possibly with the participation of PCA players.