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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Aborted Karpov-Kasparov Match of 1984

    Between June and October 1834 La Bourdonnais and McDonnell played a series of six matches, a total of eighty-five games, at the Westminster Chess Club in London. It was the first match of importance and is sometimes referred to today as the World Championship of 1834. The overall score was 45 wins to La Bourdonnais, 27 wins to McDonnell, and 13 draws.
     The second longest match is history was the 1984 match between challenger Garry Kasparov and defending champion Anatoly Karpov in Moscow from September 10, 1984 to February 15, 1985. After 5 months and 48 games, the match was abandoned in a controversial way with Karpov leading five wins to three with 40 draws. It was one of the most frustrating, boring and controversial matches in history.
     It was a record-setting match in many ways and none of them positive: Most games in a modern match (48), most draws (40), most short draws (23), most consecutive draws (17), second most consecutive draws (14), most moves (1,647), most days (159), most “technical timeouts”, greatest weight loss by one of the players and, of course, most cancellations (1).
     Karpov started in good form and after nine games Kasparov was down 4–0 in a first to six wins match. The experts were predicting that Kasparov wouldn't win a single game. But then came 17 consecutive draws!
     Karpov won game 27, then came another series of draws until game 32 and Kaspaov finally scored his first-ever win against Karpov. Another 14 draws followed, through game 46. The previous record length for a world title match had been 34 games, the 1927 match between José Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine. Then things started to change; Kasparov won games 47 and 48, making the score 5–3 in favor of Karpov and suddenly it looked like it may be a match after all. But then things took a weird turn.
     The match was ended without result amid great controversy by FIDE President Florencio Campomanes and a new match was announced to start a few months later. Both players stated that they preferred the match to continue, but at a press conference Campomanes cited the health of the players, which had been strained by the five month match, was his concern. Thus this match became the first world championship match to be abandoned without result.
     Karpov had lost 22 pounds over the course of the match, but Kasparov was in excellent health and extremely resentful of Campomanes' decision, asking him why he was abandoning the match if both players wanted to continue. Kasparov, who had won the last two games, felt he was now the favorite to despite his 5-3 deficit. He appeared to be physically stronger than his opponent and in the later games seemed to have been playing the better chess.
     At the press conference where he announced the termination of the match Campomanes stated that he had not known what he intended to do. Or, did he? Later, he was picked up on tape telling Karpov, who by this time had a withered neck and bulging eyes, “I told them exactly what you told me to tell them.”
     The restarted match in 1985 was best of 24, with Karpov to retain his title if the match was tied 12–12. Karpov was also granted the right of a return match in 1986 if he lost.
     Not all the games were tedious draws. Sharp struggles beginning with game 36 rekindled interest in the match. Before this game (number 41) Karpov took a timeout on Friday, January 11, 1985 in order to use the three days to prepare his sixth, and final, win. It didn't happen.

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