The amazing Karpov-Kasparov face-off 1984-85

Dec 24, 2014, 9:43 AM |

The 1984 title match between challenger Kasparov and reigning world champion Karpov started off in September, with Karpov winning at regular intervals, until after game 9, he was leading 4-0. Needing just two more wins to register victory, Karpov was expected to wrap up the match in the next few days, and many in the audience, who had come a long way to watch, were dismayed that the match was ending so quickly.

However, the next seventeen games played over the next fifty days were all draws, with Karpov generally having the upper hand. Then Karpov won the 27th game to stretch his score to 5-0. Now he needed just one more win to retain his title.

Something unbelievable now happened. Kasparov, in this hopeless situation, somehow found the necessary inspiration to lift his game to a whole new level and he finally won his first game of the match, the 32nd, after a lucky escape in the 31st. Another fourteen draws followed, and then Kasparov, who was now playing freely and confidently, achieved a major break-through by winning the 47th and 48th games consecutively, narrowing the champion's margin to 5-3.

At this point, with Karpov apparently close to a break-down, Florencio Campomanes, FIDE president, decided to stop the match on 15th February, 1985, on the grounds that it was now becoming more a battle of endurance than chess, and set a date for a re-match in September 1985.

The decision of the FIDE president was generally acknowledged as fair, (although not by Kasparov who protested vehemently), and the fresh match had a change of rules: now it was a best of 24 games, with the champion retaining the title in the event of a 12-12 tie.

The re-match was a ding-dong battle, going right upto game 24 which Karpov had to win to retain his title. He lost, trying to force a drawish situation. Over all, the contest had lasted 72 games, and was in the balance till the very last game.