Chess: For sale: one world title match

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The Independent Culture
A STATEMENT is expected today from Fide on the venue for the second half of the Timman-Karpov match. But such a statement was expected last Saturday and on Monday too. Let us hope they get their act together this time. At least Fide have now guaranteed a minimum prize fund of 1 million Swiss francs, even if it has to come from their own coffers.

It is certain, we are told, that play will resume on 16 October, but whether it will be in Belfort, France (the most likely venue according to those in the know), or Kuwait (who may snatch it if they can come up with a good offer), Budapest, the Netherlands, Peking or even Moscow is anyone's guess.

There is a curious parallel between the financial arrangements of the two current 'world championship' matches. The Karpov-Timman match was originally launched with a promised prize fund of Sfr4m (pounds 1.8m), one half guaranteed by Oman and the other half to be sought in the Netherlands. When the Dutch could not deliver, the prize was halved, with the Omanis supplying it all. Then they dropped out, and the prize has been halved again.

Meanwhile, in London, hardly anyone bought the tickets at their starting price of pounds 45, even when a free lunch was added. It was then more than halved to pounds 20, and finally special offers of pounds 10 tickets were introduced. Putting both cases together, it is possible to conclude that the politically charged matches of the 1970s and 1980s led to an over-valuation of world championship chess.

Now the politics are internal rather than international, and the level of worldwide interest may no longer justify such large financial backing. To adapt a phrase of Nigel Short's: The world championship appears to have been woefully oversold.

The following game, by one of the two characters in search of a venue, was played in Dos Hermanas, Spain, earlier this year and is dedicated to collectors of chess curiosities. The ten moves between White's 15th and Black's 19th must surely set a new record for consecutive bishop captures.

White: Rivas

Black: Karpov

1 c4 e6

2 Nc3 d5

3 d4 Nf6

4 Nf3 Be7

5 Bg5 h6

6 Bh4 0-0

7 Rc1 b6

8 cxd5 exd5

9 e3 Bb7

10 Bb5 a6

11 Ba4 Nbd7

12 0-0 Rc8

13 Bb3 c5

14 dxc5 Nxc5

15 Bxf6 Bxf6

16 Bxd5 Bxc3

17 Bxb7 Bxb2

18 Bxc8 Bxc1

19 Bxa6 Bxe3

20 Bc4 Bf4

21 g3 draw

That game is one of 740 in the new issue (Volume 49) of Tournament Chess, a publication devoted to unannotated game scores from the world's strongest tournaments. Covering the early months of this year, including Kasparov's victory at Linares, it is packed with excellent chess, but is hard work without any notes. Tournament Chess is available from 51 Cissbury Crescent, Saltdean, Brighton, East Sussex BN2 8RH (0273-304796), priced at pounds 12.95 including postage.