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KASPAROV, NEAR VICTORY, AGREES TO 19TH GAME DRAW

Champion Garry Kasparov and challenger Anatoly Karpov abruptly agreed to draw the 19th game of their world chess title match Wednesday, baffling experts who considered Kasparov on the brink of outright victory.

Kasparov, with the black pieces, had unleashed a dangerous assault against Karpov's position after seizing the advantage with a pawn sacrifice.

But with several grandmasters predicting an imminent win for the champion, Kasparov suddenly offered a draw in the closing minutes of the day's nearly five hours of play after only 39 moves.

His Soviet countryman accepted it without hesitation.

Chess experts packed into the press center at Lyon's Palais de Congres shouted in disbelief.

Kasparov, lingering on stage to play over the options which had been open to him, appeared to realize he had given away a precious half-point too quickly.He appeared to have decided he did not want to run the risk of Karpov coming up with a line of counterplay in overnight analysis. Kasparov needs only a 12-12 tie to keep the title and the draw gave him a 10-9 lead with three wins, two losses and 14 draws.

The 20th game is scheduled for Saturday.

Here are the moves from the 19th game:

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