FIRST, TWO pieces of good news. Ten days ago I mentioned Viswanathan Anand's possible match with Garry Kasparov for the "Ultimate World Chess Championship", which then seemed to be in the balance. But a couple of days ago I received a press release stating that Kasparov and Anand "have [now] agreed to participate in principle and the organiser, [the Canadian entrepreneur] Serge Grimaux, is presently finalising contractual details with both players".

Meanwhile, I've heard from the British Chess Federation that contracts have now been sent out for the Fide World Championship Knockout starting in Las Vegas at the end of July; and the British players - Short, Adams, Sadler, Miles and myself - should be receiving them in a few days.

On a less happy note, the triumphant march of silicon has continued. I remember from my childhood (cue carbon dating) an episode of The Man from UNCLE in which (presumably) Napoleon Solo was menaced by pretty but deadly female robots. Last week, on the contrary, Judit Polgar did battle in Budapest with the latest version of Fritz.

Originally written in highly opaque assembly language by the Dutch programmer Frans Morsch, and later commercialised by the German software company ChessBase, Fritz is currently up to version 5.32. For this match it was on a Pentium II, 350MHz processor with 128 megabytes of RM (of which 64 MB were used for a hash table).

Eight games were played at a time limit of 25 minutes each per game, with two games a day, from 27 to 30 April. This is about the most unfavourable format possible for a person both in terms of the time limit - computers are relatively stronger at Rapidplay and even more so at five-minute Blitz - and the schedule. Indeed after the first three games were drawn all the rest were decisive with Fritz ending up 5.5-2.5 winner, though mercifully Judit did win the seventh game.

Unfortunately, while machines make lots of positional errors, the occasional human tactical errors tend to predominate.

Judit, moreover, bravely stuck to her own combative style rather than tailoring her play to the opposition.

This is the blood-curdling fifth game. 14 g5 and 15 Qg3 looks much too uncompromosing. 19 ...Qxc3! was a nice sacrifice but Fritz will have "seen" right through to a decisive advantage.

White: Judit Polgar

Black: Fritz 5.32

Sicilian Taimanov

1 e4 c5

2 Nf3 e6

3 d4 cxd4

4 Nxd4 Nc6

5 Nc3 a6

6 Be3 Qc7

7 Qd2 Nf6

8 f3 Ne5

9 0-0-0 Bb4

10 Nb3 b5

11 Bd4 h6

12 Qe1 Nc6

13 Be3 0-0

14 g4 Ne5

15 Qg3 Bxc3

16 bxc3 Bb7

17 g5 hxg5

18 Bxg5 Nh5

19 Qh3 Qxc3!

20 Qxh5 Rfc8

21 Rd2 Nxf3

22 Rg2 Bxe4

23 Qg4 f5

24 Qg3 Nxg5

25 Rhg1 Bxg2

26 Qxg2 Nf3


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