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Karpov Defeated by One of 43 Chess Opponents

By John M. Bernard

Fresh from his easy win over the world's best computer chess program Friday, Soviet chess expert Anatoly Karpov simultaneously took on 43 opponents Saturday at Memorial Hall, losing to one of them and drawing six.

The Soviet lost to Lou A. Mercuri, a Belmont city planner who said yesterday that he was still "on cloud nine" after his victory.

Mercuri, a United States National Master and chess teacher who has been playing for 15 years, says that he first realized he had a chance to win after about 20 moves.

"I kept looking at the board and I respected [Karpov] so much that I kept wondering, `Am I really winning?'" Mercuri said. "I was very concerned right up to the end that I would make a careless move and then my position would go from very good to very bad."

Mercuri said that he felt a strong sense of relief when he finally defeated the Soviet master.

"I had prepared for a long time before the match by becoming familiar with his strategies, and it really is a great feeling to defeat a player that I've idolized so much."

Karpov, a former world chess champion, shook hands with each player the first time around the tables and then assumed a look of somber intent as he moved from board to board, sometimes pausing only for a second and other times carefully considering his options for several minutes before making his next move.

Karpov indicated that Deep Thought, the infamous chess computer program, gave him little trouble on Friday, although he expressed surprise at some of the computer's moves. At one point he said that the computer's most serious error was trying to go for a win rather than a draw.

Karpov's appearance comes just three months after world champion grandmaster Gary Kasparov bested Deep Thought and eight human opponents in a simultaneous exhibition here.

After hearing of Kasparov's visit, Karpov contacted the club through his American agent and offered to attend a similar event, said Christopher F. Shabris '88, alumni advisor to the Harvard Chess Club.

But Chess Club President Daniel H. Edelman '91 was careful to distinguish the Karpov exhibition from Kasparov's earlier one.

When Kasparov played at Harvard he dueled eight master opponents using a maximum time limit between each move, Edelman said. Karpov, however, faced 35 more opponents and moved from board to board virtually without rest for more than five hours.

Mercuri acknowledged that Karpov was not playing under the easiest of conditions and said, "If we had played ten games one-on-one, I would have been happy to draw one game. It just proves that on a given day anything can happen."

Karpov has been criticized openly for his more conservative political views by Kasparov, who defeated him for the world championship in 1985.

But Karpov's observers this weekend gave a more favorable assessment of the former world champion.

"Most people have found him courteous and friendly toward his fans," said Shabris. "His personality and also probably his politics are more conservative than Kasparov's, but he doesn't seem like the ogre the press has portrayed him to be."

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