Reclusive American chess genius Bobby Fischer refused to defend his crown way back in 1975 even though most observers - even his foe - rated him a heavy favorite. The International Chess Federation, then a Soviet-dominated world chess body, awarded it by default to Anatoly Karpov.
When FIDE rejected Bobby's demand for an open-ended match of 10 wins, draws not counting, he vowed never to play under its jurisdiction.Clearly the system needed reform. From the start it was designed to protect Soviet supremacy by making it almost impossible for an outsider to wrest the title.
Ever since 1948, when FIDE took control of the title, Soviet champions had draw odds in a series of 24 games. This edge enabled Mikhail Botvinnik to save his crown with a 12-12 tie in his first two title defenses.
He also had the insurance of a rematch clause that he invoked successfully after losing his next two title matches in 1957 and 1960.
FIDE finally struck the infamous rematch clause in 1963 but restored it in 1978 as a sop to Karpov, the darling of the Kremlin. This dirty deal disgusted Fischer, who vanished into the California sunset.
You can't even compare the rematch clause with Fischer's demands," Gary Kasparov said. "It's impossible to win two matches in a row. I did it, but I don't even know today how it was possible."
Although many critics felt the champion should have no edge whatever, their main objection to Fischer's conditions (10 wins, draws don't count), was that it might take so long for someone to post 10 wins that the match would become a test of stamina rather than skill.
Indeed, the first Kasparov-Karpov marathon was aborted by FIDE president Florencio Campomanes - despite widespread protests - when neither player could post the required six wins after more than five months.
When Kasparov defeated Karpov in 1985, he promptly struck a blow for chess justice by voluntarily giving up the rematch clause.
But he didn't strike the second blow. The format for the title defense in 1993 was the same as it was in 1951: the best of 24 games, draws count, and the champion keeps the title in a 12-12 tie.
Kasparov gave the former U.S. champion, Larry Evans, his reasons for sticking with this system.
First: He had to overcome the draw odds when he was the underdog, and he saw no reason by his challenger shouldn't have to vault the same obstacle.
Second: Organizers must have a definite budget and fixed dates when they book a playing hall, which is not possible in an open-ended match.
This makes sense, yet Fischer's point is still valid. Only wins should count, so nobody can cling to the title by playing for draws.
In 1992 Bobby proved that 10 wins could be achieved in just nine weeks when he trounced his old nemesis Boris Spassky 10-5 (plus 15 draws) after 30 games for $5 million, the largest purse in chess history.
Now should it ever occur, under what rules would the two world champions play each other? (The FIDE world champion and the Professional Chess Association
- DEMANDS! DEMANDS! - When the Professional Chess Association semifinal qualifying matches began in Linares, Spain, the two English participants, Nigel Short and Michael Adams, had high expectations.
But the matchups quickly turned into debacles. Short was crushed 51/2 to 11/2 by the American wunderkind, Gata Kamsky, while Adams lost by the same score to the Indian star, Viswanathan Anand.
In January Kamsky and Anand will play for the right to a lucrative title match with Gary Kasparov. If Kamsky should defeat Anand - he beat him in a FIDE qualifying match last August - he will (at 20) be the youngest grandmaster ever to play for the world title.
Chess competitions with so much at stake are frequently rich in tension and quirky demands - sometimes justified, sometimes not - by the players.
The latest of this sort was Kamsky's demand in Linares, that a barrier be erected in the playing area between his game with Short and Anand's with Adams. "I am afraid that the two English grandmasters will speak about the moves during the game." Noting that Anand was Short's friend, he added, "I don't want to play against all three of them."