Karpov defence finally opens

A year overdue, the 1995 Fide world chess championship match between Anatoly Karpov and Gata Kamsky started yesterday.

Not in New York, where Garry Kasparov, champion of the rival Professional Chess Association, successfully defended his title last year. Not in Montreal, where Fide had confidently expected the match to be held until the Canadians failed to come up with the money. Not even in Baghdad, which Fide designated as the official venue when Montreal fell through, but in Elista, a city roughly the size of Slough, that is the capital of the semi- autonomous sheep-rich state of Kalmykia in southern Russia.

Since Kasparov and the British player Nigel Short staged their dramatic breakaway from the International Chess Federation, Fide, in 1993, to form the PCA, the continuing schism within world chess has led to discontent among potential sponsors.

After one world title cycle with the PCA, the computer chip manufacturer Intel has ceased its support, while Fide, as this long-postponed event has shown, has had even greater problems.

At the beginning of this year Fide elected a new president. Kirsan Ilyumjinov, by all accounts one of the richest men in Russia, would lead the organisation out of the intermittent crises that had dogged the organisation under its previous administration. Quite apart from his riches, his love of chess, and his obvious energy, Ilyumjinov was a man of considerable influence, being himself a head of state - the state of Kalmykia.

And so the players have arrived in Kalmykia. Anatoly Karpov, 45, the undisputed world champion from 1975 until 1985, and the Fide champion since 1993, faces Gata Kamsky, 22, who defected eight years ago from the USSR to the United States.

The match will be over 20 games and is expected to last until the middle of next month.

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