The first day of the match between the two legends in Valencia evoke mixed approach all over, but did put Garry Kasparov in the lead by a contented margin of 2-0. Before saying anything about the real match, let’s not forget what’s being famous here this week the birth of current chess in the 15th century in Valencia. To honor this event, five lectures were individual held today as part of the festivities. The presentation, however, were now and then quite hard to follow for the spectactors. This was in part due to the high scientific level of some of the lectures, which could barely be followed by the live translator, let alone by the frequently inexperienced audience, but also by the amateurish setup of some of the presentations.
In our view, the most attractive address was given by Ulrich Schaedler from Switzerland, who explain various aspect of the Book of Games manuscript of Alphonse X – a manuscript, it should be noted, that has nothing to do with Valencia at all. After these lectures, the completely packed auditorium of the Palau de les Arts was lastly ready for the first game between Karpov and Kasparov. As it twisted out at the last instant, it was essential to reserve seats beforehand, which resulted in almost all press being banned to the last rows of the aula after the first five minutes of the game. Also, the press room was quite far from the playing hall, which banned an easy live transmission of the games.
After Sulaiman Al-Fahim had briefly announce the players, the first move was finally played with arbiter Geurt Gijssen watching the events from close range. Karpov being white, his first move wasn’t too hard to forecast 1.d4. Kasparov, not too astonishingly either, opted for his beloved Grünfeld Defence, right away reminding us all of the many classic games the two K’s played in this opening.
An attractive positional center game position appears on the board, where Karpov tried to treat the position by small means while Kasparov was looking for activity. The complications sent Karpov into thinking too much thinking, as it twisted out, because just when things in progress to heat up, he overstep the time boundary as early as move 24, in an unclear position. This was a enormous disappointment for everyone, including Karpov, who seem surprised himself as well about what had just happen.
Karpov in fact played 6Bd6 and 8Ne7, but after 9.Bd3 he went for 9…Nd7 which gave him a somewhat passive position. When we asked him whether Karpov’s choice of difference had surprised him, Kasparov replied that Karpov almost certainly wanted to play a hard game but he didn’t refer to their game played in London in 1986. The interpretor couldn’t keep up with Kasparov’s brook of variations, which enthused Kasprov to remark that the chess moves aren’t vital anyway. In any case, the succeed gave Kasparov a very relaxed 2-0 lead in their rapid games, and we gravely doubt if Karpov will be able to overcome this painful match.