Gary Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov stumbled through an error-filled evening before drawing the ninth game of the world chess championship Wednesday. Experts said they were amazed at the sudden plunge in playing standards in the match.
After a grim uphill struggle in the previous game, Kasparov switched defensive systems, preferring to try the more solid Gruenfeld Defense.
Challenger Karpov, playing white, steadily built up a commanding position after passive and sloppy play from the champion.
With grandmasters predicting another desperate fight for survival for Kasparov, Karpov committed the worst error of the match, losing a strong central pawn for no reason.
"I cannot believe this, no one can believe this," Yugoslav grandmaster Ljubomir Ljubojevic said.
"I've known Karpov all my life _ he never loses his nerve and he would never give a square _ and here he gives a pawn for nothing. It's a joke, this isn't a match it's a joke," Ljubojevic said.
Karpov explained his oversight by saying he had intended another move first and played his plan in the wrong order.
Kasparov could not disguise his relief.
When Karpov committed the error the champion stared at the board wide-eyed, shaking his head in shock.
Experts were unanimous that the level of play in the match has fallen to an unprecedented low and could only offer fatigue from the tremendous nervous strain as an explanation.
Here are the moves from Game 9:
Opening: Gruenfeld Defense, Exchange Variation
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Be3 c5 8. Qd2 cxd4 9. cxd4 Nc6 10. Rd1 Qa5 11. Qxa5 Nxa5 12. Nf3 0-0 13. Be2 Bd7 14. Bd2 b6 15. 0-0 Rfd8 16. Rc1 Bg4 17. d5 Nb7 18. h3 Bxf3 19. Bxf3 Nc5 20. Be3 Rac8 21. Bg4 Rb8 22. Rc4 h5 23. Bf3 e6 24. Rd1 exd5 25. exd5 Be5 26. g4 hxg4 27. hxg4 Nb7 28. Ra4 Na5 29. g5 Rbc8 30. Be2 Bd6 31. Kg2 Bc5 32. Bd2 Rxd5 33. Bf3 Rdd8 34. Bxa5 Draw agreed.
The match is scheduled to resume today with Kasparov having the advantage of the first move.