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FOLLOWING IN the footsteps of his great Armenian predecessor Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, Vladimir Akopian lost the first game of the Fide World Championship final on Sunday like a child, or as Petrosian said of his defeat, "a first-category player".

There, though, much of the similarity ends, for, whereas Akopian's match with Alexander Khalifman from St Petersburg is of just six games, Petrosian had all the time in the world to fight back against Mikhail Botvinnik in 1963 in the balmy days of 24-game championships.

Nevertheless, with Petrosian being such an icon, I wouldn't be surprised if Akopian hadn't consoled himself with the further course of Petrosian's triumph: three tough draws followed by a magnificent strategic victory - his first ever against Botvinnik: a tour de force in which Petrosian's (White) king penetrated all the way to g7 as early as the first time control on move 40 - and an eventual scoreline of 12.5-9.5.

In any case, although Akopian played the opening very dubiously, the second game on Monday was drawn after just 18 moves on Khalifman's proposal after he, too, appeared to go slightly wrong.

Akopian presumably surprised Khalifman somewhat with 3 b4 but they reached a fairly normal English Opening. If 11 ...f4 12 d4 so Khalifman tried to stabilise the centre with 11 ...c5.

After 12 bxc6 bxc6 Black is again ready to play 13 ...c5 but 13 exf5 looks normal to me rather than the precipitate 13 c5?!

In the diagram 17 Nxe4 looks panicky, though if e.g. 17 Nd2 Be6 18 Qc2 Nc6 Black must be better. White got bishop and two pawns vs two knights - enough in blitz but not at a slow time limit - and Khalifman consolidated.

White: Vladimir Akopian

Black: Alexander Khalifman

Las Vegas 1999 (Final, game 1)

English Opening

1 Nf3 Nf6

2 c4 g6

3 b4 Bg7

4 Bb2 0-0

5 g3 d6

6 Bg2 e5

7 d3 Nh5

8 Nc3 f5

9 0-0 Nc6

10 b5 Ne7

11 e4 c5

12 bxc6 bxc6

13 c5?! d5

14 exd5 cxd5

15 Qb3 e4

16 dxe4 fxe4

(see diagram)

17 Nxe4?! Bxb2

18 Qxb2 dxe4

19 Ng5 Bf5

20 Nxe4 Rb8

21 Qc3 Nd5

22 Qa3 Bxe4

23 Bxe4 Nhf6

24 Bf3 Qc7

25 Rac1 Ne7

26 c6 Nf5

27 Qc3 Rbc8

28 Rfe1 Qg7

29 Rcd1 Rc7

30 Re6 h5

31 Qe5 Kh7

32 h3 Ng8

33 Qe4 Nf6

34 Qe5 Ng8

35 Qe4 Rf6

36 Rxf6 Nxf6

37 Qb4 Qe7

38 Qb8 Nd6

39 g4 hxg4

40 hxg4 Nf7

41 Kg2 Kg7

42 Re1 Qd8

43 Qb2 Ng5

44 Re3 Qd6

45 Qa3 Qxa3

46 Rxa3 Kf7

47 Be2 Ne6

48 Ra4 Nd5

49 Bf3 Ne7

50 Kg3 Kf6

51 Rc4 Ke5

52 Rc1 Nd4

53 Re1+ Kf6

54 Bg2 Nexc6

55 f4 Ne7

56 Bf1 Rc3+

57 Kg2 Nc2

White resigns