Ever since Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short broke away from Fide in 1993, the world championship has been in confusion. Kasparov won the title of his newly-formed PCA, then defended it successfully against Viswanathan Anand; Karpov picked up the remains of the Fide title, and defended it against Gata Kamsky. Since then, there have been constant rumours of a unifying match between the two Ks, while the overall situation has been further muddied by the intention of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the new Fide president, to replace the traditional, gladiatorial world title matches every two or three years by an annual knock-out event. The first such tournament is scheduled to take place in Kalmykia at the end of this year. Both Karpov and Kasparov have been offered seeded places directly into the semi-finals, but both have so far indicated an intention not to grace the event with their presence.

Plans for a final K-K showdown lost impetus when Kasparov was defeated by Deep Blue this year. Hopes of a huge purse from a US sponsor dwindled with that result - Americans don't back losers.

Last week, alternative plans to hold a Kasparov-Karpov match in France also seemed to have fallen through as claims that they were on the verge of signing a contract were firmly denied by Kasparov's agent, Owen Williams. "Nothing could be further from the truth," he was quoted as saying. "The match must be off."

Even though Karpov has now dropped to fifth place in the world rankings, Kasparov would be unwise to underestimate him. As the following game shows, he can still produce ideas of a very high quality. White's rook is lured offside at move 28 by means of a pawn sacrifice, and the rest is a triumph for centralisation.

White: Y. Pelletier

Black: A. Karpov

Biel 1997

1 d4 Nf6 21 Qb2 Rac8

2 c4 e6 22 Nd2 Nd6

3 Nf3 b6 23 f3 Bc4

4 a3 Bb7 24 Nxc4 Nxc4

5 Nc3 d5 25 Qb3 Nb6

6 Bg5 Be7 26 Bf1 h6

7 Qa4+ Bc6 27 Rd6 Nd5

8 Qb3 dxc4 28 Rxa6 Rc3

9 Qxc4 0-0 29 Qb2 Rfc8

10 e3 Bb7 30 e4 Ne3

11 Be2 a6 31 Re1 Nxf1

12 Rc1 Nbd7 32 Rxf2 Rc2

13 0-0 b5 33 Qe5 Rd8

14 Qa2 c5 34 Qxb5 Rdd2

15 Rfd1 Nd5 35 Qb8+ Kh7

16 Bxe7 Qxe7 36 Qg3 Qd7

17 dxc5 Nxc5 37 Ra5 Qd4+

18 b4 Nxc3 38 Kh1 Rd1

19 Rxc3 Ne4 White resigned

20 Rcd3 Bd5