Independent Pursuits: Chess

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The Independent Culture
WHILE THE boys have been bashing each others' brains out in Linares, Fide's world champion Anatoly Karpov has also been in action, in sadly pale contrast, in a match with Jeroen Piket in Monaco.

Organised by the Dutch multi-millionaire Joop van Oosterom's Association, Max Euwe, this eight-game contest took place from 21 February to 2 March. It contained hard fighting chess with both players generally working hard as White in the opening to try to establish small advantages and then striving vigorously to convert them. There were also some passages of attacking play. But the final disappointing if worthy result was complete deadlock in eight draws.

Disappointing, that is, to us the (virtual) onlookers and to Karpov. But certainly not to Jeroen Piket, currently rated 50th in the world on 2,619, who showed excellent technique and nerves. Even as a shadow of his former greatness, Karpov still has the raw power to play superb chess. But nowadays he requires some "encouragement" from the opponent and it is greatly to Piket's credit this was not forthcoming.

Since his pyrrhic victory against an exhausted Viswanathan Anand last January, Karpov has, understandably but annoyingly, done everything in his power to prolong his reign as Fide champion to the stipulated two years. Nevertheless, the Fide Championships are currently still scheduled for June/July, allegedly in Las Vegas - though I'll believe it when I see it.

A new champion from there would have real credibility. The even more difficult task of effecting some sort of reconciliation with Gary Kasparov could then begin.

This was the third game. Karpov got a reasonable position in the opening - of course he avoided 13 ...Rxe3? when 14 Bxf6! (but not 14 Bh7+? Nxh7!) Nxf6 15 Bh7+ wins material. Piket gave up the exchange in return for two potentially dangerous passed pawns and play on the black squares but Karpov's passed "a pawn" gave counterplay.

Black can try 28 ...Qb7 but after 29 Rb1! it doesn't achieve much. On move 30, Karpov decided to bail out by returning the exchange. The resultant endgame was favourable to White but Karpov held fairly easily.

White: Jeroen Piket

White: Anatoly Karpov

Nimzo-Indian Defence