Although eight of the first 10 games ended in draws, the World Championship Chess Match has generally kept spectators absorbed in the excitement of daring attacks and extraordinary blunders, as the tide of battle has shifted back and forth at a dizzying pace.
On Friday night, however, Game 10 ended quietly in a draw after a mere 18 moves. What happened, simply, was that Anatoly Karpov's accurate defense foiled all Gary Kasparov's attempts to worm his way to an advantage.But spectators, and the grandmasters who issue a running commentary for them in conference rooms near the playing hall at the Hotel Macklowe in mid-Manhattan, were complaining that the game was boring.
There was speculation that people who had paid $100 for tickets might be less than impressed by the calm, unprepossessing show they had received for their money.
Of the 10 games played so far, only two, Game 2 and Game 7, have ended in victories, one for each player. In almost every game, however, the question has come up whether the champion, Kasparov, would try another of his risky attacks, and if so, whether the challenger, Karpov, would be able to beat it off.
On Friday night, Karpov, playing Black, resorted to the Petrov Defense, maybe the most conservative and careful in the repertoire of chess openings. In the previous game, he had played sharply for advantage, had erred and had been fortunate to escape with a draw, an experience that might still have been uppermost in his mind.
In any case, in top-flight chess, the responsibility for formulating attacks lies with White, who moves first. Unless White makes a mistake, Black's main job is to contain attacks.
If Black carries out his logical function perfectly, the game should be a draw - although on Friday night it was just this result that prompted criticism.
But to put the matter in perspective, Kasparov's wild, swashbuckling attempts to overwhelm his opponent earlier in the match had also come in for criticism.
Some even asserted that more mistakes had been committed in this match than in any other championship in the history of the game.
Chess audiences are hard to please and are not held back by logical consistency. They want exciting play, but it had better be flawless as well.
Some spectators on Friday suggested that since there were serious blunders in the previous three games, the players were using Game 10 as a respite from all the tensions. Neither, of course, would want to use up the second of the three postponements each may claim.
Even if this were true, however, the tension of title play would not abate. Neither player could read the other's mind and be sure he was also playing for a draw.
Besides, all that would have to happen would be for one to err and the other would be on him like a panther. No matter how tense, overwrought or exhausted a player is, the sight of an opponent's error gets the adrenaline flowing.