Sun-Herald Chess Column for April 9

Last Wednesday at a press conference in London, Garry Kasparov confirmed what was already common knowledge in the chess world; the world number one would contest a $US2m title match against Vladimir Kramnik for the Brain Games World Championship next October. Kasparov's matches are usually accompanied by controversy, and the coming match is no exception. Already Kasparov's first choice challenger, Viswanathan Anand, found it necessary to decline his invitation amid allegations by Anand of harrassment by the match organisers.

Then one of the match organisers took out an injunction against a major English newspaper just before it was to publish an article on Brain Games Network PLC. Kasparov dealt with other issues at the London press conference; in particular, why was he playing Kramnik, a player who had lost a qualifying match in 1998 to Alexey Shirov. (Kramnik was unavailable to answer any questions - the video link with Moscow failed.)

"Now there is a new situation," said Kasparov. "The new sponsors certainly have no obligation to Shirov." However in a baffling follow-up, Kasparov stated that he had not defended his title for five years because "the opposition was not strong enough".

Since Kramnik was ranked equal first in the world in 1996 but has now dropped well behind Kasparov, this seems a rather convenient excuse for Kasparov's failure to meet any of the challengers he has hand-picked over the years.

Kasparov gave himself a 60-40 chance of victory but insisted that the 16 game match would be a close contest, despite Kramnik's lack of match experience. (Kramnik, 24, has played only four matches in his career, losing three.) In a snub to Russia, the match has been scheduled to clash with the Istanbul Chess Olympiad, ruling out Russia's two best players. However Russian chess fans should not be too concerned; with Kasparov's past record and Brain Games' current uncertainties, the chances of the match taking place on schedule may also be no better than 60-40.

#April Chess Competition#

The diagrammed position arose after four moves by each side from the start of a normal game. What were those moves?

The first correct entry opened after the closing date of April 18 will win a boxed bronze medallion, minted in Iceland, to commemorate the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match. The next six correct entries will win a postmarked, commemorative envelope from the 1972 match. Entries should be sent to: Sun-Herald April Chess Competition, GPO Box 506, Sydney 2001, or faxed to 02-92822151.

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