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THE NINTH World Computer Chess Championship has just finished at the Nixdorf Science Museum, in Paderborn in Germany. Running from 14 to 30 June, it featured 30 programs in a seven-round Swiss.

Computers playing other computers - as distinct from people - are (in human terms) a bloodthirsty lot, and just 23 of the 106 games were drawn. The defending champion, the Dutchman Frans Morsch's Fritz, was sole leader with a round to go with 5/6. But in the last round Fritz was defeated by the American Bruce Moreland's Ferret which overtook it on 5.5/7, equal with Shredder, programmed by Stefan Meyer-Kahlen from Germany.

Behind these two came Fritz and Cilkchess (USA) on 5, and Junior (Israel), Dark Thought (Germany), Rebel (Holland), Nimzo (Austria) and Chess Tiger (Guadaloupe) on 4.5.

The two winners then had a single play-off game with the title being awarded in the event of a draw to the program with the better sum of opponents' scores: in this case Shredder. You might imagine that it would make no difference to a program if it had to win. But the programmers get round this by tweaking the assessment function so fooling the monster into thinking it's better - and so must play on, even when it isn't. Ferret got the advantage but was unable to progress and nearly lost before the battle ended drawn after 101 moves.

This was the very shortest game - a typical murderous attack beyond a machine's - in this case Centaur's - "horizon".

White: GromitChess (Germany)

Black: Centaur (Russia)

Paderborn 1999 (Round 6)

Reti Opening

1 c4 e6

2 Nf3 d5

3 g3 Nf6

4 Bg2 Be7

5 Nc3 0-0

6 b3 b6

7 0-0 Bb7

8 Ne5 Nbd7

9 f4 Nxe5

10 fxe5 Ne4

11 Bb2 Bg5

12 e3 c5

13 Nxe4 dxe4

14 Rf2 Qd3

15 Qh5 h6

16 h4 Qc2

17 hxg5 Qxb2

18 gxh6 Qxa1+

19 Bf1 f5

20 hxg7 Kxg7

21 Qg5+ Kf7

22 Rh2 Ke8

23 Rh7

Black resigns