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The Independent Culture
THIS WEEKEND I shall be watching the World Cup - the World Chess Cup at the Devonshire Inn in Sticklepath, near Okehampton, Devon. With six years' experience of world-class chess events behind them, including one world team championship contested by local pub teams each representing a different nation, and six Devonshire International Tournaments, the time was ripe, in the opinion of the landlord John Verner-Jeffreys, to host a World Cup.

Considerable crowds are expected this afternoon to see the first appearance of the latest version of Aquarius, the chess computer powered by the water mill at the Finch Foundry next door to the Inn. Last year, Aquarius - the world's first intelligent clepsydra - dried out during an unusually sunny spell and by the time it had been reboated, by men in pedaloes ferrying to and fro with buckets of water, it was adjudged to have overstepped the time limit.

This time, however, they believe the upgraded Rainbows 98 wetware system is truly weatherproof. "It has a 4.3 gigagallon, 8-speed parallel aqueduct Reservoir Added Memory," Mr Verner-Jeffreys explained, "with a sheep-methane- powered gas turbine back-up in case of drought."

The break-through in design occurred, he said, when research revealed that 95 per cent of the methane produced by a sheep came from belches. "We'd been using the wrong disc-drive, as it were," he said.

If the weather forecast for this weekend is correct, sheep-power will be unnecessary, but a flock is on standby if necessary. And what, I asked, if it gets clogged up with water spiders and dragonflies as it did in 1996? "No problem," said Mr Verner-Jeffreys with a knowing wink as he pointed to the fine metal grid sunk deep into the water: "Millennium bug- filter."

And if you think that sounds a little far-fetched, here's a game from an equally futuristic contest currently being played in Leon, Spain. Each man has an hour for all his moves, but may call on the assistance of either of two top-of-the-range computer programs. Kasparov lost the first game, but in the second adopted the sort of chess that computers don't understand. At the end, White's threat of 37.Rc7 cannot satisfactorily be met.

White: Garry Kasparov

Black: Veselin Topalov

Leon 1998

1 d4 Nf6 19 Rfc1 Qa5

2 Nf3 g6 20 a3 a6

3 c4 Bg7 21 Bd4 Bf8

4 g3 0-0 22 e3 Be8

5 Bg2 c6 23 Qd2 Qd8

6 Nc3 d5 24 Bf1 Rc7

7 cxd5 cxd5 25 Qb2 Rc6

8 Ne5 e6 26 Na4 Rxc1

9 0-0 Nfd7 27 Rxc1 Bc6

10 f4 Nc6 28 Nc5 Qe8

11 Be3 f6 29 a4 a5

12 Nf3 f5 30 Qc3 Qf7

13 Ne5 Nb6 31 Bb5 Bxb5

14 b3 Bd7 32 axb5 h6

15 Qd3 Nc8 33 Na4 Ba3

16 Bc1 Nxe5 34 Qxc8+ Rxc8

17 dxe5 Rf7 35 Rxc8+ Kh7

18 Be3 Bc6 36 b6 resigns