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AFTER MANY years as a responsible citizen, happy to chat amiably with other like-minded folks, or provide refreshingly sensible commentary on current games - or, if you prefer, spending my life as a wallflower - I finally took the plunge last week and started to play chess at the Internet Chess club (ICC - http:// www.chessclub.com).

It's a lot of fun, though dangerously addictive and a threat to sleep. You can join ICC by visiting their home page as above and then downloading a suitable version of "blitzin", according to your particular operating system.

You then use "blitzin" to log on to the ICC itself, and follow instructions. People get a week's free trial and membership then costs $49 per year or half for youngsters, but is free for international masters and grandmasters. You can also always log on as a "guest", with limited privileges, if you wish to try the system out.

Blitzin is an excellent interface with a wide variety of commands, of which the most important are "tell" (abbreviated to "t") to send messages to other players; "who", with various possible parameters, which lists who's on the system - typically 1,500 players or so round about midnight in London (about 78,000 games are played every day); and "match", by which you issue challenges to other players.

You can also "seek" a game, and there's a visual aid, a "seek graph" in which you can click to get a game which can be played at any agreed time limit, either fixed or with an increment every move. (3 0, as in today's game, is popular - it means three minutes each, and no increment.)

Play is exclusively with the mouse, which leads to various technical side-issues, for speed is of the essence and "flagging" - i.e. playing to win on time - appears to be perfectly good etiquette on the Net.

The really addictive part of the ICC, though, is the rating system. This is updated after every game and, appealingly, is hugely inflated compared to Fide's, so that a good grandmaster should be at least 2,700 if not 2,800 and there are several players - and computers, blast them - over 3,000!

One of these is A-Morozevich - Alexander Morozevich (fourth on the Fide's July '99 list at 2,758), who, when I logged on at Thursday lunchtime, was rated 3,048; his best ever was 3,143. This rather frenetic game against the American grandmaster Maxim Dlugy is not untypical. Not 21 ...Qxe5? 22 Rxe5 Rxe5?? 23 Rd8+. But 21 ...Re6! won a whole rook.

White: Dlugy

Black: A-Morozevich

ICC "3 0" 14 September1999

Queen's Pawn Opening


1 d4 d5

2 Bf4 c5

3 dxc5 Nc6

4 e4 d4

5 Nf3 Bg4

6 h3 Bxf3

7 Qxf3 e5

8 Bd2 Bxc5

9 Bc4 Nf6

10 0-0 0-0

11 Bg5 Be7

12 Nd2 Nxe4

13 Nxe4 Bxg5

14 Nxg5 Qxg5

15 Bd5 Rac8

16 Rfe1 Rc7

17 c3 dxc3

18 Qxc3 Re8

19 Rad1 Qe7

20 Bxc6? Rxc6

21 Qxe5? Re6! 0-1