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IN A bravura performance surpassing even his outstanding play at Wijk aan Zee in January, Gary Kasparov guaranteed first place in Linares on Sunday, with two rounds to spare. With just yesterday's and today's rounds left, he had 9.5/12, clear of Kramnik 7, Anand 6.5, Leko and Topalov 5.5, Adams 5 and Svidler and Ivanchuk 4.5.

This magnificent battle took place on Friday. The rather extraordinary 12 Nb1 was unleashed by the equally so Vassily Ivanchuk against Loek van Wely in a game ultimately drawn at Wijk aan Zee 1996. The point is that on a4 it is vulnerable, while on e2 it blocks the e file. To begin with 13 ...Ne5 was generally played but 13 ...g5, which Topalov introduced against Leko in round three of Linares, is quite logical since at the cost of one pawn Black gains several tempi.

16 ...Qb6! was a big improvement on Topalov's 16 ...Qa5. The difference was that if 18 Rxh1 Bg7 immediately gains a tempo by attack- ing the d4 knight: instead Leko was able, with the queen on a5, to recapture 18 Rxh1 and utilise the h file.

22 ...Bg7! was better than 22 ...fxe6 when 23 Qh2 yields a powerful attack, though probably only a draw with best play. But Anand should have played 24 Qf2+ Kg8 25 Qf5 (threatening 26 Be4 Nxe4 27 Qe6+!) when the main line goes 25 ...Bxd4 26 Qg6+ Bg7 27 Re8+ Rxe8 28 Qxe8+ Kh7 29 Qh5+ etc.

Incredibly, Anand only deviated from Kasparov's analysis with the inspired 27 Nc3!! which gave better chances than the technical ending after 27 Nf5+ Qxf5 28 gxf5 (not 28 Qd4+ Kh7 29 gxf5 Nb3+) 28 ... Nb3+ 29 Kd1 Bf3+! 30 Ke1 Nxd2 31 Nxd2 Bg4 32 Be7 Bxf5 33 Bxb4 Bxc2!

Not 28 ...Qxf5?? 29 Qxc3+: but 28 ...Kf8 29 Bh6+ Ke8 30 Qxd5 Bxd5 31 Nd6+ Kd7 32 Nxc8 cxb2+ 33 Kxb2 Kxc8 was very possible. As played, White had drawing chances since an exchange of knights would lead to a technical draw.

After 36 ...Ne4? - 36 ...Nd7 37 Nb2 Nb6 looks an improvement - Anand almost pulled off a miracle. Simply 47 Nc3! Kd4 48 Nxa4 would draw easily but in a moment of madness Anand looked for something "even simpler" and fell into a mating net. After 51 Kxa4 Nb6+ 52 Ka5 Nc4+ 53 Ka4 Bc2 is mate; or 53 Ka6 Bc8+ 54 Ka7 Kxb5 etc.

White: Viswanathan Anand

Black: Gary Kasparov

Sicilian Najdorf