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World Chess Championship: The Scene Leaves New York With PM-Chess Showdown

November 8, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ If American crowds have trouble keeping quiet at tennis matches, it’s hard to see chess catching on here as a spectator sport.

Chess fans have to sit on their hands. There are no hot dog or beer vendors. You can’t shout ″exd4 3/8″ or ″Bf6 3/8″ And most matches end in a tie.

The U.S. Open here two months ago was raucous compared to the inside of the Hudson Theatre on Wednesday, as titleholder Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov played to a draw in the last game of the U.S. half of their world championship chess match.

Chess folk take their quietness seriously. As they followed Game 12 - watching the players in person and on video screens and listening to running commentary via headsets - spectators would occasionally murmur at an audacious move.

Immediately, their neighbors shushed them and the words ″Silence Please″ flashed on the largest screen.

For stage presence, Kasparov and Karpov are no John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.

Both players sat at the board, leaning forward, heads in hands. Kasparov occasionally jiggled his right foot. There was no dialogue and there were certainly no tantrums. Nobody threw any chess pieces.

In a whimsical touch, the stage was flanked by giant cutout chess pieces that looked like illustrations from Lewis Carroll’s ″Through the Looking Glass.″

Although known for their dislike of one another, the champion and challenger were polite during the 12 matches in New York.

Most of the time, the two took turns sitting down. As one pondered his move, the other would wait offstage.

Chess does have its share of excitement, though. On Wednesday, after move number 31, the pace picked up considerably.

Because of the time rules, Karpov was left with only nine minutes to make his next nine moves, while Kasparov had 20 minutes left for the same number of moves. For this, both sat at the table.

For those fans who can’t take the silence, the analysis rooms in the adjoining Hotel Macklowe offer a diversion. There, the chess buffs follow the game on monitors while grandmasters provide color commentary.

In Lecture Room 5.08, grandmaster Roman Dzindzichashvili was holding forth energetically.

″I think absolutely terrible move by Karpov 3/8″ he said. ″Absolutely terrible 3/8″

Another kibitzer shouted, ″Do you think he didn’t see bishop E6?″

″No, he saw bishop E6,″ Dzindzichashvili said. ″He just underestimated.″

Lack of TV coverage of this year’s championship is a sore point for true chess fans. Syndicated columnist Shelby Lyman was host for the move-by-move coverage of the 1972 championship between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer on PBS.

″I have three, four, five people come up to me every day asking, ’Why aren’t you on TV?‴ Lyman said. ″Some of them are almost crying.″

If the United States is not agog with the championship - which began Oct. 8 and resumes Nov. 24 - the Hotel Macklowe, at least, was buzzing with nothing else. In lounges and on elevators, people talked chess in a dozen languages.

″It’s exciting to be in a chess milieu,″ said Steve Shapiro of New York. ″When you’re playing, you’re with a buddy or in a club. Rarely are you part of a chess scene. There are lots of scenes in this town, and chess ain’t one of them.″

For their patience and good behavior, the spectators - who paid from $25 to $100 per ticket to attend Game 12 - were rewarded with a draw.

Ever polite, the audience waited a few seconds before applauding. The players shook hands with each other and with match officials and withdrew, silently.

The best-of-24-game match now moves to Lyons, France, tied 6-6 in points.

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