Chess: Karpov in a class of his own

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ANATOLY KARPOV must be a very happy man. Already certain of winning the Linares tournament, his last-round lap of honour saw him sprinting across the finishing line at the expense of the demoralised Alexander Belyavsky, who blundered to defeat in only 20 moves. Then Kasparov played one of his worst games in recent years to lose to Joel Lautier, leaving Karpov two-and-a-half points ahead of the field.

It was his most impressive tournament performance for more than a decade and, indeed, one of the most convincing results ever seen. Only Bobby Fischer and perhaps Kasparov himself have outclassed such strong fields in the past, but even they would have been delighted to score nine wins and four draws in a competition that included all the world's top 10.

Final scores: Karpov 11; Kasparov and Shirov 81 2 ; Bareyev 71 2 ; Kramnik and Lautier 7; Anand, Kamsky and Topalov 61 2 ; Ivanchuk 6; Gelfand 51 2 ; Illescas 41 2 ; Polgar 4; Belyavsky 2.

During the second half of the event, Kasparov seemed disturbed by the allegations surrounding his game with Judit Polgar. The company that filmed the incident is reported to be asking around pounds 80,000 for rights to the footage cited as evidence that Kasparov took back a move. Vladimir Kramnik, at one stage challenging the leaders, seemed equally disturbed by his victory over Kasparov, after which he scarcely added to his score.

Of the others, Shirov and Bareyev have confirmed their promise, but high placings are small consolation for their elimination from both world title competitions. Lower down, Kramnik, Anand, Kamsky and Gelfand will not be too bothered as they still have championship battles to fight.

Here is Karpov's last-round miniature, the shortest decisive game of the entire event. Belyavsky's 18 . . . Nxa4? allowed for 19. Rxa4 b5, but failed to spot 19. Qb3] threatening both Qxa4 and Nc6. In the final position, there is no way to save the black knight.

White: Karpov

Black: Belyavsky

1 d4 Nf6 11 Qd3 c5 2 Nf3 d5 12 Nc3 cxd4 3 c4 e6 13 Nxd5 Qxd5 4 g3 Be7 14 h4 Nbd7 5 Bg2 0-0 15 Nxd4 Qd6 6 0-0 dxc4 16 Rfd1 Nc5 7 Qc2 a6 17 Qc4 Rfd8 8 a4 Bd7 18 b4 Nxa4 9 Qxc4 Bc6 19 Qb3 Qb6 10 Bg5 Bd5 20 e3 1-0

Kasparov's loss was more difficult to understand. Somewhere between 15. d4 and 23 . . . Qxb3, he miscalculated horribly.

White: Kasparov

Black: Lautier

1 e4 e5 16 e5 dxc3 2 Nf3 Nc6 17 exf6 Qxf6 3 Bc4 Bc5 18 Nb3 Nxb4 4 c3 Nf6 19 Bb1 d4 5 d3 d6 20 Rxa7 c2 6 Bb3 h6 21 Rxa8 cxb1Q 7 h3 a6 22 Rxf8+ Kxf8 8 Nbd2 Be6 23 Qxb5 Qxb3 9 Bc2 Ba7 24 Qb8+ Ke7 10 Qe2 Qe7 25 Qxc7+ Ke8

11 b4 d5 26 Bd2 Qd8

12 a4 b5 27 Qe5 Kf8

13 0-0 0-0 28 Nxd4 Nd3

14 axb5 axb5 29 Qe3 Qc4

15 d4 exd4 White resigns