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THE ANNUAL Chess Classic finishes today at the Ballsporthalle in Frankfurt. More than just a tournament, the top section - the Siemens Giants - is in effect a world rapidplay championship, featuring the world's three top practitioners of this discipline, and indeed any sort of chess - the Frankfurt stalwarts Kasparov, Anand and Kramnik, not to mention the "outsider", the Fide world champion Anatoly Karpov.

In 1998 Anand won, ahead of Kramnik, Kasparov and Ivanchuk, but only in a double-rounder. This time they are playing four times - a complete all-play-all on each of the four days. By halfway there had been just three decisive games, with Kramnik beating Karpov and Kasparov and Karpov both defeating Anand; so the scores were Kramnik and Kasparov 3.5/6, Karpov 3 and Anand 2.

In any other circumstances, the absurdly understated "Masters" would have held centre stage, boasting the world's strongest woman player, six other formidable grandmasters and some serious software - Fritz 6 - on serious hardware - a Siemens Primergy 870 server comprising four 555 MegaHertz processors working together.

They are playing a double round all-play-all and, somewhat dispiritingly though to no great surprise, halfway through Fritz led on 5/7. Not that machines are so wonderful at positive play, but Fritz's terrifying ability to punish any error and the huge advantage of not getting tired have taken their toll; only bottom-placed Alexander Morozevich has extracted the full point.

Behind Fritz comes Peter Leko, who has played some controlled positional games, on 4.5, Peter Svidler on 4, Veselin Topalov and Judit Polgar (who started well but then lost three in a row) on 3.5, Christopher Lutz on 3, Michael Adams on 2.5 and Alexander Morozevich on 2.

Although there has been a preponderance of draws in the Giants, this has not detracted from the excitement. Indeed already two of Kasparov's games have ended in perpetual check!

The first was against Kramnik in round 2. Black in a Richter Rauzer, Kramnik sacrificed both bishops on a2 and b2 to set up perpetual for his queen. The second appears below. Kasparov and Anand were allegedly supposed to be hiding their preparation from each other in view of their forthcoming match; but something certainly came out. In a different mood Anand might have played on at the end.

White: Garry Kasparov

Black: Viswanathan Anand

Frankfurt Giants 1999 (Round 6), Scotch Game