"What can I say?" says Karpov. "Kasparov is no longer young, but he's still immature. How can you dislike a child?" Karpov won't even acknowledge his archrival's genius. "Sure, Kasparov is an interesting player," he allows, "but there are many interesting players."
Unlike Godot, which premiered in Paris before eventually moving to New York, this production opened on Broadway, at Manhattan's Hotel Macklowe, on Oct. 8 and then after 12 games moved to Lyons on Nov. 24. From the opening act, Kasparov paced and grimaced and provoked wild, tactical melees. His victories were marked by innovative combinations—the one in Game 2 was so astounding that kibitzers gave him a standing ovation. His losses were marred by reckless attacks; he was smartly smashed in Game 7 after blundering into a tactical position that led to double attacks on his major pieces and the loss of a vital pawn.
Karpov's tenacity has thrown Kasparov into fits of frustration, consternation and puzzlement. The champ wanted to blow Karpov off the board, but whenever Kasparov looked to shoot out ahead, Karpov tightened his defenses. Chagrined and embarrassed by the 6-6 score at the end of the New York leg, Kasparov skipped the halftime press conference.
Kasparov settled down by Game 16, outlasting Karpov in a 12-hour, 102-move marathon in which he took time out to consult a computer and his analysts—an accepted practice in tournament play these days—and plot the winning combination of moves. The ever-resilient Karpov needed only 40 moves to win the next game and retie the match, at 8�, but he found himself in an untenable position in Game 18. Karpov tried to postpone the continuation of the game after an adjournment—to buy time for his own computer analysis—by claiming he was snowed in at his hillside villa. But in perhaps the most daring gambit of the match, chief arbiter Gert Gijssen climbed into his rental car, braved the treacherous roads and captured Karpov, who made a delayed and sheepish appearance at the Palais de Congr�s in Lyons, where, half an hour later, he resigned the game.
Karpov has also squandered winning positions in more than a half-dozen games. "At times he seemed afraid of Kasparov and every one of his pieces," says grand master Ljubomir Ljubojevic of Yugoslavia. "He didn't play to win, only to survive." Last Saturday, with the match fading away, Karpov played to win in Game 20—and lost. "He and Kasparov are overdosed with each other," said Ljubojevic. "At any moment, either one is likely to collapse."
Like their theatrical counterparts, K&K wait anxiously for a resolution. Kasparov is convinced Karpov will be supplanted in the next world championship by a younger Soviet player, Boris Gelfand or Vassily Ivanchuk. Karpov still bravely insists he'll win this match, thereby ending his "permanent" rival's career. "Kasparov will never play for the championship again," Karpov says stoutly. "His nervous system is not so stable. It won't be a nervous breakdown, but his nerves will breakdown."
Most everyone else thinks the two K's will continue to square off in a sort of perpetual endgame, which, of course, is the name of another Beckett tragicomedy.