When The National covered a chess 'grudge match'

It was a chess match that was being covered on The National. It was also a broadcast choice made during the summer.

In 1986, there was a lot of 'media hype' about the battle between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov

A 'grudge match' involving chess players

36 years ago
Duration 3:13
Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov's chessboard face-off caught the eye of The National in 1986. 3:13

A "grudge match" involving chess players wearing sport coats?

That's how Knowlton Nash set up the rivalry between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov, when The National's veteran anchor told viewers about it back in July of 1986.

And obviously there had to be enough tension in the story to justify airing a three-minute report on a high-level chess match on The National — even during the summer.

The CBC's Larry Stout provided viewers at home with more detail on this chess showdown, which could see Karpov regain his title from Kasparov, who had taken it from him a year earlier.

"Today, at a posh London hotel, the two antagonists — it's said they really dislike each other — began their match," said Stout, the day the story aired on July 28, 1986.

"But both men have played down their antagonism, suggesting it's more a matter of different styles."

So much 'media hype'

Anatoly Karpov (shown above) was trying to regain his title as world champion, when taking on Garry Kasparov during the 1986 World Chess Championships. (The National/CBC Archives)

The men, who were both from the Soviet Union, were due to play 12 games over a five-week period, followed by another 12 matches in Leningrad later on, meaning the people watching The National that night would not be finding out who was the winner.

Organizer Raymond Keene said there was a lot to look forward to as the two chess players battled it out on square boards in the weeks to come.

"We have two charismatic characters fighting it out — you know, very unclear result, very exciting games and they've managed to capture the public imagination again," said Keene.

Stout said the "media hype" surrounding the chess championship had been significant. It had included a party in which champagne and caviar were served.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had attended that party in London, with the Tory leader claiming to see parallels between politics and chess.

"We, too, make several moves a day. We, too, try to sense what moves our opponents will make," Thatcher said in a speech to onlookers at the party.

Who would win it all?

At the outset of the 1986 World Chess Championship, Garry Kasparov (shown above) said he could not say if he or Anatoly Karpov would be victorious. (The National/CBC Archives)

Kasparov and Karpov had battled each other before and as Stout explained, it was not clear who would be victorious in their third head-to-head title match.

"Their first encounter ended in controversy: The match was abandoned after nearly six months, with Karpov ahead," Stout told viewers.

"It was ruled the players and officials were too exhausted to continue."

A subsequent rematch the previous December saw Kasparov take the title.

Stout said "more than $900,000 in prize money," was at stake, and both players pledged to donate their winnings to "victims of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster."

"Whatever the outcome, for chess enthusiasts, these matches are just as exciting as (Major League) Baseball's World Series or [the NHL's] Stanley Cup and, they suggest, far more intellectually stimulating," Stout told viewers.

In the end, Kasparov would hang on to his title. Their rivalry would continue, however.