The top two players on the current international rating list - Kasparov and Kramnik - may be absent from the world championship, but their understudies have been putting on such a splendid show that they have hardly been missed. We should also remember that with the apparent demise of Kasparov's Professional Chess Association, the Fide (International Chess Federation) world championship is now the only proper competition for the title. After three games of the final, which is now being played in Lausanne, Viswanathan Anand and Anatoly Karpov - ranked third and fourth in the world respectively - are level at 11/2 points each. The first two games, which resulted in one win for each player, were full of excitement.

Karpov, who is used to 24-game matches for the world title, usually takes a few games to get into his stride, but in this six-game contest, he seemed to realise that there was no time for such luxury. He came out fighting in the opening round and sacrificed a piece for three pawns in the opening. This must have been part of his pre-match preparation, though the position after 24...Rxc2 was far from clear.

After 26.Qa8+, Anand must have felt that 26...Qxb8 27.Qxb8+ Nxb8 was worse for him, but his decision to sacrifice both rooks was incorrect. After 30...Ne5, he may have expected 31.Raf1 Nxf3 32.Rxf3 Qe2+ 33.Rf2 Qg4+ forcing a draw, but Karpov's queen sacrifice left him with a won endgame.

Over the last 50 or so moves of the game, Karpov missed several chances to end the game more quickly, but his method was safe but sure. The occasional repetition of moves was explained by the use of the Fischer clock, which allocates players an initial bank of time, then adds 30 seconds for each completed move. Whenever Karpov gave three or four pointless rook checks, it was only a sign that he needed to add a couple of minutes to his time allowance to give him time to work out the winning method.

White: Anatoly Karpov

Black: Viswanathan Anand

Game One

1 d4 d5 55 Re6+ Kg7

2 c4 c6 56 Rg3+ Kf7

3 Nc3 Nf6 57 Rge3 Qd5+

4 e3 e6 58 Kg3 Qg5+

5 Nf3 Nbd7 59 Kf2 Qh4+

6 Bd3 dxc4 60 Ke2 Qd4

7 Bxc4 b5 61 R6e4 Qa1

8 Bd3 Bb7 62 Kd3 Kf6

9 0-0 a6 63 Re6+ Kf5

10 e4 c5 64 b4 Qc1

11 d5 Qc7 65 Kd4 Qc8

12 dxe6 fxe6 66 b5 Qd8+

13 Bc2 c4 67 Kc5 Qc7+

14 Qe2 Bd6 68 Kb4 Qf4+

15 Nd4 Nc5 69 Kb3 Qc7

16 f4 e5 70 b6 Qd7

17 Ndxb5 axb5 71 R3e5+ Kf4

18 Nxb5 Qb6 72 Re4+ Kg3

19 Nxd6+ Qxd6 73 Re3+ Kh2

20 fxe5 Qxe5 74 Kc4 h4

21 Rf5 Qe7 75 Kc5 Qc8+

22 Qxc4 Rc8 76 Kd5 Qd8+

23 Qb5+ Ncd7 77 Ke4 Qd7

24 Qxb7 Rxc2 78 Kf5 Kg2

25 Bg5 Qd6 79 Kg5 Qg7+

26 Qa8+ Kf7 80 Kxh4 Kf2

27 Qxh8 Qd4+ 81 R3e5 Qh8+

28 Kh1 Qxe4 82 Kg4 Qg7+

29 Rf3 Rxg2 83 Kf5 Qh7+

30 Kxg2 Ne5 84 Kf6 Qh4+

31 Qxg7+ Kxg7 85 Kf7 Qh7+

32 Bxf6+ Kg6 86 Ke8 Qb7

33 Bxe5 Qxe5 87 h4 Qb8+

34 Rg1 h5 88 Kf7 Qb7+

35 b3 Qe2+ 89 Kg6 Qb8

36 Rf2 Qe4+ 90 h5 Qg8+

37 Kf1+ Kh6 91 Kf5 Qh7+

38 Rg3 Qb1+ 92 Kf6 Kf3

39 Kg2 Qe4+ 93 Re3+ Kf2

40 Rgf3 Qg6+ 94 Re2+ Kf3

41 Kf1 Qb1+ 95 R2e3+ Kf2

42 Kg2 Qg6+ 96 Kg5 Qg8+

43 Kh1 Qb1+ 97 Kh4 Qd8+

44 Rf1 Qxa2 98 Kh3 Qd1

45 Rf6+ Kg7 99 Re2+ Kf3

46 Rf7+ Kh8 100 Kh2 Qd8

47 Rf8+ Kg7 101 R6e3+ Kf4

48 R8f7+ Kg8 102 b7 Qb6

49 R7f3 Kg7 103 Re4+ Kf3

50 h3 Qc2 104 R2e3+ Kf2

51 R1f2 Qe4 105 Re7 Qd6+

52 Kg2 Qb4 106 Kh3 Qb8

53 Re2 Qd4 107 R3e5 Kg1

54 Re7+ Kg6 108 Rg7+ resigns

The players put on another thrilling show the next day. Karpov sacrificed rook for knight to obtain two passed pawns and Anand must have been relieved when he missed 34...Ne2+ 35.Kf1 Qe8! preventing both 36.Qf7+ and 36.Kxe2 (when Bb8+ wins the queen). After missing this chance to go 2-0 up, Karpov lost the game and scores were level again.

White: Viswanathan Anand

Black: Anatoly Karpov

Game Two

1 e4 e5 22 Qd3 c5

2 Nf3 Nc6 23 Qxa6 d5

3 Bb5 a6 24 a5 c4

4 Ba4 Nf6 25 Be3 Be5

5 0-0 Bc5 26 Bb6 Qd7

6 c3 b5 27 Qa7 Qc6

7 Bb3 d6 28 Bd4 Bc7

8 a4 Bg4 29 Rb2 c3

9 d3 0-0 30 Rb7 Rc8

10 h3 Bxf3 31 Bb6 Be5

11 Qxf3 Na5 32 Rxf7 c2

12 Bc2 b4 33 Rc1 Nc3

13 Nd2 Rb8 34 Rf3 h6

14 Qe2 Re8 35 Qf7+ Kh8

15 Nf3 bxc3 36 Re3 d4

16 bxc3 Nb3 37 Rxe5 d3

17 Bxb3 Rxb3 38 Bd4 Rg8

18 d4 exd4 39 Re6 d2

19 cxd4 Rxf3 40 Rxc6 dxc1=Q+

20 Qxf3 Bxd4 41 Kh2 Qd2

21 Ra2 Nxe4 42 Rc8 resigns

In the third game, a draw became inevitable after Karpov decided against 16.Bxh7+ Kh8, when the threat of Bxf3 is hard to meet.

White: Viswanathan Anand

Black: Anatoly Karpov

Game Three

1 d4 d5 11 Bxe4 bxa3

2 c4 c6 12 bxa3 Bd6

3 Nc3 Nf6 13 0-0 0-0

4 e3 e6 14 Bb2 Rb8

5 Nf3 Nbd7 15 Qc2 c5

6 Bd3 dxc4 16 Bxb7 Rxb7

7 Bxc4 b5 17 dxc5 Bxc5

8 Bd3 Bb7 18 Rfd1 Qe7

9 a3 b4 19 a4

10 Ne4 Nxe4 Draw agreed