Independent Pursuits: Chess

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IN A martial society, respect is all. The best way of engendering this is by beating (like other sportsmen chess players use considerably more colourful verbs amongst themselves) an opponent over the board. As long as the game wasn't

disfigured by some ghastly blunder, you, or rather I, feel, once the volcanic emotions of defeat have abated, a grudging or even heartfelt admiration for somebody who has committed this outrage upon my person - and I presume that the same extends to my colleagues.

With the proliferation of strong players, however, it's become impracticable to lock horns with each and every one of them; and in a development in some ways analogous to the change from barter to coinage, rating systems were developed - which, indeed, at a professional level translate fairly directly to levels of remuneration - to provide a numerical measure of these macho relationships.

All of which verbiage is only to introduce the eagerly awaited arrival of the January 1999 Fide rating list. Of course, we in this country have our own rating system (based as I explained a month and a half ago on the Financial Times Index), and it is that which is of importance to the vast majority of British players. But the list was certainly eagerly awaited by my colleagues and myself; and when a copy of the Top 100 was finally sent to Bob Wade - who among his many hats includes one as a Fide technical director - the phone lines and ether went into overdrive.

Within a very short time, Mark Crowther had put it up on his excellent home page - http://www. chesscenter.com/twic/twic.html - and shortly thereafter queries started appearing.

At the top, Gary Kasparov is down from 2,815 to 2,812 (for the first time ratings aren't being rounded to the nearest 5) but his only activity in the period was a six-game match against Jan Timman, which wasn't supposed to be rated!

Additionally. Crowther had speedily received an e-mail from Veselin Topalov, who had been rated for 11 games too many: it seems that Tilburg was rated twice - which affects a dozen players at the very top.

With those serious reservations the current list continues: Anand 2,783, Kramnik 2,740, Shirov 2,725, Morozevich 2,723, Ivanchuk 2,714, Leko 2,711, Karpov and Adams 2,710, Svidler 2,703 and Short 2,697. The other top English ratings are Sadler 2,676, Miles 2,609, myself 2,601 and Nunn 2,600.

Just room for an allegedly currently double-value miniature from Tilburg. Lautier lost far too much time in the opening. At the end if 24 ...Nxd1 25 Qf4+ g8 26 Rg3+ Bg4 27 Rxg4+ Kh7 28 Qg5 and mates or if 24 ...Be6 simply 25 Rde1.

White: Vladimir Kramnik

Black: Joel Lautier

Tilburg 1998

Queen's Gambit Slav

1 d4 d5

2 Nf3 c6

3 c4 e6

4 Qc2 dxc4

5 Qxc4 Nf6

6 Bg5 Be7

7 e3 0-0

8 Bd3 h6

9 Bxf6 Bxf6

10 Nc3 Nd7

11 Rd1 Qe7

12 Bb1 e5

13 0-0 exd4

14 exd4 Nb6

15 Qd3 g6

16 Rfe1 Qb4

17 Qd2 Nc4

18 Qxh6 Nxb2

19 Bxg6 fxg6

20 Ng5 Bxg5

21 Qxg6+ Kh8

22 Qh5+ Kg7

23 Qxg5+ Kf7

24 Re3! 1-0

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