After losing twice on the first day by not playing and then by playing badly, Anatoly Karpov showed some spine and some teeth on day two by beating Garry Kasparov in a well-played third game in Valencia. That not only delayed the decision in the match and gave Karpov some peace of mind, but alleviated fears that total domination by Kasparov might make the exhibition look more like elder abuse in public and even put future matches at risk. Seeing the two legends back at the board is great, but it would be a little embarrassing if Karpov continued to look as helpless as he did on day one.
Both of today's games repeated the openings from day one. Kasparov sacrificed the exchange out of a Grunfeld in game three. He was holding the balance for a while until Karpov found the nice 27.Rxc5! piece sac to hyperactivate his rooks and threaten to get his d-pawn moving. Black's tangled minors couldn't get coordinated against the rooks on the open files and soon it was over. Good chess! Needing only a draw with white in the fourth game to clinch the match, Kasparov repeated the line from the first game and soon dominated the board, leading to a final score of 3-1 when Karpov's flag fell for the third time. I really hope Karpov has been practicing his blitz because if he hasn't, tomorrow could get ugly. Flagging in rapid with an increment in 24 moves is bad enough.
When I spoke to Kasparov after the rapid concluded today he sounded content. He considered Karpov's win in game three to be a quality game and the best of the match and was disappointed he hadn't been able to maintain the defense. In game two he said he was expecting the superior 21..Ne5 instead of Karpov's blunder 21..Nc5. Then he had planned 22.f4 Nc4 23.Qd4 b5 24.b3 Nxa3 and now the same 21.Nf6+! winning either the exchange or the black queen. Garry thought he outplayed Karpov well in the fourth game, though he criticized his 32.Be2 when 32.Rh1 would have been much stronger. I asked him if 10.f3 was a novelty and he said he wasn't sure, but "I always play f3 in those positions!" Just so, if you look at the stem game Karpov-Kasparov, Leningrad WCh (7), 1986! Well, he did say Karpov was his greatest teacher, after all. And he did play the structure with f3 later in this line on the white side the next year against Karpov in Seville.
Kasparov pointed out that one of the reasons for Karpov's time troubles in the first game was that he had never allowed this Grunfeld line with e4 against Karpov in the past, always going with 3..c6 or 3..c5 or playing 4..0-0 5..d6. The final position of the fourth game is just torture for Black. A computer might defend this for a while but it's difficult for a human to even look at. Since it's an exhibition I guess Karpov could have played some more moves, but after you look around for a while letting your time run out starts to feel awfully attractive. White has all sorts of moves to improve his position: f4, Bd1, Ne5, and Black can't do much of anything.
So on to the blitz! Garry declined to make any prognostications, but before the match I figured losing 2-6 would be a good result for Karpov unless he's been anonymously dominating the online blitz rating charts in his spare time. After seeing troubles in sharp positions and on the clock in the rapid, 1-7 might be optimistic. But hey, Karpov has already surprised us once. Let's hope we get some good games without too many time forfeits with plenty of play still on the board.