For nearly five hours several hundred spectators in the Teatro Lope de Vega in Seville, Spain, have been riveted to their red velvet seats, watching two men think. It is Game 15 of the world chess championship, and Gary Kasparov, the defending champ from the Soviet Union, is locked in a silent minuet with countryman Anatoly Karpov, his "permanent rival," whom he last disposed of a year ago in Leningrad. Kasparov crouches at the board, ferocious and menacing. Across the table sits Karpov, face fixed in a thin smile, feet wound behind the front legs of his high-backed office chair. Kasparov shoots his cuffs, scratches his nose, buries his face in his hands.
"It's going to be lots of blood," Ricardo Calvo, a Spanish international master, had predicted before Game 15.
"Today is blood," agreed Eganov Sii Avush, head of Kasparov's delegation. "Blood. Much blood."
Americans have a hard time thinking of chess as a game that spills much blood, but at this level of competition, it's like a brain hemorrhage. Push. Scrape. Nudge. Kasparov's pawn infantry launches a frontal assault. Click. Nudge. Bump. Karpov fires an artillery strike with a rook. Bump. Scrape. Click. Kasparov mounts a cavalry charge with his knights. The moves are so staggeringly complex that even the grand masters on hand have no idea who's ahead.
After all these hours the theater has the disheveled look of a bus station on a day schedules are disrupted. Only Kasparov is unruffled. His head is up, his eyes alert. But he starts to seethe when Karpov seals the 43rd move, adjourning the game until the next afternoon. Kasparov and everyone else thinks it's a clear draw. Karpov can force an endgame, but it would never be conclusive.
At week's end Kasparov and Karpov were even in the 24-game series that began Oct. 12. Each had won three, lost three and drawn 11, for 8½ points. To win, a player needs 12½ points or six victories. In the event of a 12-12 tie, Kasparov would retain the title.
For the last three years Kasparov and Karpov have been the two best players in the world. After 113 games over four championship matches, Kasparov has only one more win than Karpov. But Kasparov beat Karpov in their second and third championship series, and was gaining on him in the first when it was called off.
It has begun to look as if they'll play each other in a perpetual series of unpleasant, genuinely unfriendly championships. They're like two boxers whose skills are almost equal and who know each other intimately. There are no surprises. "After three years of seeing the same face, you lose invention," says Andrew Page, Kasparov's British manager. "It's like being in a bad marriage. Each represents the antithesis of the other."
Karpov, who's 36, is a brilliant if colorless tactician, whose cautious game is predominantly positional, relying on an accretion of minute advantages.
Kasparov, 24, prefers risky attacks, wide-open gambits, movement. He subverts traditional ideas of defense, dazzling and seducing the opposition by whipping up assaults from seemingly innocuous positions. In moments of crisis he seems to pluck brilliant moves out of his sleeves like silk scarves. Kasparov's queen sacrifice in the 11th game of his second match with Karpov—he gave away a poisoned queen to win an unassailable position—is regarded as one of the classic coups de theatre of chess.