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The therapeutic value of chess has been claimed for psychiatric in-patients, for violent criminal offenders and for recidivists. Now we have the first evidence that it may also help as an outlet for the aggressive instincts of footballers.

Eric, you really ought to meet Fritz. At his best, Fritz is a fearsome fighter, but he'll happily lie down and let a footballer kick him into submission. Not only that, but the last time it happened, everyone cheered.

Fritz 3 is the latest version of a computer chess program with some novel features that can make it suit any opponent. In a recent tournament in Germany, it performed well enough to secure a qualification towards the International Master title. Curiously, it scored better against grandmasters than against ordinary mortals - but there is some evidence that its lesser opponents prepared for it by buying the program (it retails for around £80) and practising beforehand. Fritz's best game was a draw againstthe Russian grandmaster Igor Glek. Black's sacrificial attack is met by a string of accurate defensive moves which leave Black with three pawns for a piece. White's 26.Qb3 and 30.Qxb7 look the height of recklessness, but were based on precise calculation. The queen returns just in time with 31.Qb8+ and 33.Qh2.

White: Fritz 3 Black: I. Glek 1 e4 c5 23 Kg2 Nxf1

2 c3 e6 24 Nxf1 Qg5+ 3 d4 d5 25 Kh1 Rd8

4 exd5 exd5 26 Qb3 Ne5

5 Nf3 a6 27 Nh2 Nxf3

6 Be2 Nf6 28 Nxf3 Qh5+ 7 dxc5 Bxc5 29 Kg2 Rd6

8 0-0 h6 30 Qxb7 Rf6

9 Nbd2 0-0 31 Qb8+ Kh7

10 Nb3 Bb6 32 Rf1 Qf5

11 Re1 Nc6 33 Qh2 Qe4

12 Nbd4 Re8 34 Qh3 Rf4

13 h3 Qd6 35 Kg3 f6

14 Be3 Bxh3 36 a3 g5

15 gxh3 Rxe3 37 Qd7+ Kg6

16 Nf5! Qf4 38 Qc8 h5

17 Nxe3 Bxe3 39 Qg8+ Kh6

18 fxe3 Qg3+ 40 Qh8+ Kg6

19 Kh1 Ne4 41 Qg8+ Kh6

20 Rf1 Qxh3+ 42 Qf8+ Kg6

21 Nh2 Qxe3 43 Qg8+ draw 22 Bf3 Ng3+ The Hamburg soccer star Felix Magath did much better in a pre-match knock-up . . .

White: Magath Black: Fritz 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bb5 Ke7 4.d4 Ke8 5.dxe5 Nxe4 6.0-0 Ke7 7.Re1 a6 8.Ba4 b5 9.Bb3 Bb7 10.c4 Ke8 11.Nbd2 bxc4 12.Nxc4 Ke7 13.Rxe4! Bxe4 14.Bg5+ f6 15.exf6+ gxf6 16.Qd4 Kf7 17.Qxe4 d5 18.Qf4 dxc4 19.Bxc4+ Kg7 20.Bh6+ Kg6 21.Nh4+Kh5 22.Bf7 mate. Only that time poor old Fritz was on a handicap level forcing it to make 80 per cent king moves.

William Hartston