Just 11 moves into Gary Kasparov's game with Vasily Ivanchuk of Ukraine in Round 4 of the Euwe Memorial Tournament, the world's champion saw his position disintegrate.
Ivanchuck had caught him by surprise with a devilish move that virtually decided the contest. The game was played in Amsterdam, Netherlands.This did not mean that Kasparov had to abandon the fight at once, but it did mean that, if Ivanchuk played without a mistake from this crucial juncture on, the champion would not be able to rescue himself.
Ivanchuk's technique turned out to be impeccable and, for the second time in his life, he scored a much prized victory over Kasparov.
Not only was this an excellent performance by the 25-year-old Ukrainian grandmaster, but also he has knocked out a linchpin in Kasparov's favorite Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Kasparov must now get back to the drawing board, the experts are saying.
But that isn't the only headache that Kasparov has had recently.
Pandemonium reigned on and off the board during the decisive Grand Prix quarterfinal game between Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik. The unlikely battleground: the Palace of Congresses in the Kremlin.
Repeatedly a sophisticated Moscow audience of nearly 2,000 rose to its feet to applaud Kramnik as he ripped open Kasparov's king position with a cascade of piece sacrifices.
After the world champion's resignation, the 18-year-old prodigy raised his hands about his head in celebration to the delight of the cheering spectators.
It was the second time in a couple of months that Kasparov - who rarely loses a game to anyone - had succumbed to Kramnik's brilliant play.
In the next round, Kramnik again prevailed but this time under freaky circumstances when Alexi Vizmanavin offered him a draw in a winning position.
Vizmanavin mistakenly thought a draw would give him the match. According to the rules of play, the opposite in fact was true.
Both inspiration and luck deserted Kramnik during the fourth game of the final round when the more experienced Viswanathan Anand of India beat him with surprising ease to win the tournament.
Earlier Anand had enhanced his reputation as "the fastest gun" in chess when he used only six of the 25 minutes allotted to him in each of his two wins over Vladimir Malaniuk of Ukraine.
Conducted in a state setting created by a Bolshoi Ballet designer, the Intel Grand Prix is the first commercial event ever to be held in the Kremlin.
- MINORITIES - Tournament chess at the adult level in the United States is virtually an all-white (all-male) affair. There are no deliberate, visible bars to minorities as such, but history, poverty and other inequities have conspired to limit participation.
Nevertheless, more than 60 American blacks have managed to earn U.S. Chess Federation rating during the past three decades - although few of the players have been able to scale heights fully commensurate with their talents, reports the syndicated chess columnist Shelby Lyman.
Especially for the inner-city black, chess is not always an affordable activity. Expensive coaching, books, magazines and computers are prerequisites of competitiveness at the higher levels. Tournament costs are often prohibitive.
But there appears to be significant redress in the making, Shelby writes. Of late, there has been an explosion of chess interest and programs in inner-city schools. Accessibility to scholastic tournaments, chess centers and clubs is rapidly growing.
A recent effort at "affirmative action" deserves mention. A few weeks ago, chess historian Jerome Bibuld organized and directed an international tournament at New York's Manhattan Chess Club. The 10 participants were eligible to earn norms toward international titles.
Four players of African descent accepted invitations to play: Deon Solomons of South Africa, Norman Rogers of Philadelphia, Maurice Ashley of New York and Okechukwu Umezina of Chicago. In all previous U.S. chess history, a total of only two players of African descent had participated in such events.
All four either won or drew at least one game against the four grandmasters in the tournament.