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NEARLY FOUR weeks ago, on 21 June, Garry Kasparov kicked off his game against "the World" with a ceremonial rendition of 1 e4 on a life- size board at Bryant Park in New York.

Since then, anyone with an Internet connection has had the opportunity, every two days, to vote for the World's moves at kasparov under the guidance of a panel of four young titans, led by the 16-year-old Etienne Bacrot from France.

To begin with, the stately pace of a half a move a day, and a potentially rather dull opening, dissuaded me from paying the game much attention. So I was most agreeably surprised the other day, when a friend at a local cafe showed me the consequences of the fickle public's decision, despite the best efforts of the two boys on the panel, Bacrot and the American Florin Felecan, to follow the advice of the two girls, Irina Krush and Elizabeth Paetz.

Their splendid theoretical novelty 10 ...Qe6 (see below) has led to a fascinating position which well repays looking at, the more so since the critical positions should be arising early next week.

White: Garry Kasparov

Black: The World

Internet 1999

Sicilian 3 Bb5+

In fact, as I write, the world has only just played 12 ...Kd7. But the next moves will certainly be played, and probably also 14 Nb6+!, to create a weakness axb6 15 Nc3 (though 15 b3 is also conceivable).

With two pawns for the exchange, Black is doing quite well materially, but the appreciably weak b pawns and potentially exposed king render the position rather loose. The World should aim, therefore, to exchange pieces. Indeed, if Black could manage to get rid of either the queens or, perhaps even better, White's knight, then they would stand well. The potentially nasty 16 Na4 is in the air so the main choices are:

A) 15 ...b5, which looks too loosening to me, eg 16 Be3 b4 (but perhaps 16 ...Ra8 17 Rc1 Ke8) 17 Na4 Nd5 18 Rc1! (not 18 Qxd5 Qxd5 19 Nb6+ Ke6 20 Nxd5 Kxd5) 18 ...Qe4 19 Re1 with a dangerous initiative.

B) 15 ...Ra8 16 Be3

B1) Now, my first idea was 16 ...Nb4 but after 17 Bd4! (17 Bxb6 Nfd5! is what Black wants) Nd3? 18 Qf3! is most unpleasant while 17 ...Qd3 18 Qxd3 Nxd3 19 Bxf6 Bxf6 20.Nd5 ruins Black's pawn structure.

B2) So perhaps 16 ...Ra6 17.Rc1 Ke8 though I still somewhat prefer White.