- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2000

The Beast of Baku has been slain by Vlad the Impaler.

Garry Kasparov, who has dominated the world chess scene since winning the world title 15 years ago, lost his crown yesterday to fellow Russian grandmaster and one-time protege Vladimir Kramnik.

The Azerbaijan-born Mr. Kasparov, 37, agreed to a draw with the white pieces in Game 15 of the scheduled 16-game match, held in a television studio outside London. The result left Mr. Kramnik, 25, with an insurmountable lead of 8 1/2-6 1/2 with just a game to go.

"I was not outplayed at the board but was completely outprepared," an exhausted-looking Mr. Kasparov said after agreeing to the draw 38 moves into yesterday's game.

The soft-spoken, bespectacled Mr. Kramnik punched the air twice after clinching the match the first sign of real emotion by the disciplined Russian in almost a month of high-tension chess.

Mr. Kasparov lost a celebrated six-game match to IBM's Deep Blue computer program in 1997, but he has easily turned back all human challengers to his throne before Mr. Kramnik. He triumphed in several epic matches with former champion Anatoly Karpov in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and was a convincing winner in his most recent title defense against India's Viswanathan Anand in New York in 1995.

Raymond Keene, the English grandmaster who served as match director, called Mr. Kramnik's win a major upset.

Mr. Kasparov "has beaten every other human in history easily," said Mr. Keene. "The whole world thought he would win again here."

But the new champion gave up smoking and reportedly lost 25 pounds in preparing for the title bout. His strategy of avoiding the complicated positions that are Mr. Kasparov's forte also worked to perfection, grandmasters who analyzed the match said yesterday.

The match was not sanctioned by the international chess federation, known by its French acronym FIDE. Mr. Kasparov broke with the organization over the prize fund for his 1993 title defense against England's Nigel Short, bitterly dividing the chess world.

FIDE recognizes yet a third Russian grandmaster, St. Petersburg's Alexander Khalifman, as its champion.

But with Mr. Kasparov, the top-rated player in the world by far, and Mr. Kramnik No. 2, many in the chess world felt the winner of the London match represented the true world champion.

Mr. Kramnik's win also could clear the way for a unification of the world title, as the young Russian has enjoyed relatively good relations with top FIDE officials and, unlike Mr. Kasparov, has played in FIDE-sanctioned events.

The London match was sponsored by Braingames Ltd., a British Internet firm that put up the $2 million prize fund.

Asked in a brief press conference after the game yesterday if he would agree to a reunification match with FIDE, Mr. Kramnik replied: "I'm waiting for Braingames to work it out."

For his part, Mr. Kasparov said he was hoping Braingames would agree to sponsor a rematch between himself and the new champion.

Mr. Kasparov, considered the most intimidating player ever to play the game, seemed uncharacteristically listless and passive during much of the London match, puzzling spectators and fans who followed the moves around the world by looking into the Internet at www.braingames.net.

He failed to win a single game, losing two and drawing the rest. Mr. Kasparov conceded several draws when he had the advantage of the white pieces in the middle of the match, and in several games near the end he obtained an edge but failed to break his younger rival.

A visibly emotional player at the board, Mr. Kasparov was left grimacing and clutching his head in several games, unable to work his way through Mr. Kramnik's defenses.

Yesterday's game was typical: Mr. Kasparov with white grabbed an early advantage but never found a way to break through. With both players having two rooks and Mr. Kasparov's knight contained by the challenger's bishop, Mr. Kasparov offered a draw, which Mr. Kramnik immediately accepted.

The new champion lacks the charisma of Mr. Kasparov, who has built up an international business empire in chess while becoming involved in Russian politics under former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

At one point, Mr. Kasparov even considered running for president of Russia as the Soviet Union was collapsing in 1990.

Despite the fall of the Soviet Union and its state-supported chess establishment, Russians and players from former Soviet lands dominate the game's top ranks.

Mr. Kramnik's triumph led the news on sports reports in Russia, where huge numbers of people play the game.

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