KindredSpirit’s Kaleidoscope: 1984 World Chess Championship Revisited

The eve of this match brought forth Harry Golombek’s London Times column accusations that a fix was in to assure a Anatoly Karpov victory. This emerged partly from interviews with Korchnoi who had accused the Soviets of beating his son while being in a labor camp. Golombek’s remarks in his column noted that an overwhelming victory by Karpov would make the match smell to high heaven. . In a Golombek interview with Korchnoi, he accused the Soviets of forcing Kasparov to lose games and not play up to his ability. Both IM Jonathan Tisdall who was USCF’s Chess Life reporter on the scene in Moscow strongly rebutted his assertions as did the FIDE President Florencio Campomanes. Both Ks had also disputed the rumors.  In fact, during the match both Anatoly and Garry conducted brief postmortems of the game play. Kasparov’s temper tantrums when losing  likely hurt his play.

As the match appeared nearly over with Karpov leading with 5-0, with 21 draws victory seemed inevitably for Karpov. But he made the mistake of deciding to play more positional chess hoping his younger opponent would eventually lose the deciding game making Karpov the one to first score 6 wins.  Some games later with drawn games and Kasparov picking away at the score, Karpov declared illness and needed a break in tune with the rules. On the eve of the 49 match game, Karpov could not continue; Kasparov had stalled his victory run to 5 games and Kasparov had taken the 48th game. The match was cancelled which was very controversial although written in the rules for the match as a discretionary use if necessary.

President Campomanes had to stop the match due to its long length probably remembering the Capablanca vs. Alekhine match some years before in South America where the reporters and general public tired of viewing the games.  It was definitely interrupting the schedule and other important international events.

The storm that followed included all top Grandmasters who, in unison said the match had to be decided per the rules.  Kasparov was apparently the favorite among the throng of players across the world.  His brilliant and imaginative play made him a heavy favorite to win if Karpov could be beaten. The momentum had shifted to Garry Kasparov who was proved to be a very worthy opponent as someone who could defeat Karpov.

Garry Kasparov became World Champion and defended the title successfully; his tournament play was superb; he wrote a number of books and contributed to opening theory.  He took on chess politics creating an organizational structure that competed with FIDE, and later became involved in Russian politics with the hope of displacing Putin. Today he is considered to be the strongest chessplayer achieving a record of success not before seen in the modern world of computer science.  He took advantage of wealth and had a ready stable of GMs and other top quality analysts that enriched his opening arsenal and natural talent of both middle and endgame excellence.

New In Chess just arrived which touches on this very article. It is called ‘Coming Full Circle’ Kasparov wrote in his autobiography calling February 15th 1985 to be the most memorable day in his life. His private struggles became public. His struggle against FIDE continued with his latest attempt (reported by me) to unseat Kirsan Illyumzhinov by supporting Anatoly Karpov for President. He intends to either find another candidate or may choose to run himself in the 2014 elections in Tromsa, Norway. In his formative years dealing with chess politics, his slogan was: “If not you, who else?” That slogan may be appropriate for the next round of this intrigue.


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