Chess / In a tangle on the world wide web

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Garry Kasparov gave a clock simultaneous display on Tuesday: playing 10 opponents on 10 boards, under normal conditions with clocks. Kasparov, darting from board to board, had one hour for all his moves in all the games; his opponents had 45 minutes each. There's nothing unusual about that, except that he was in Munich and his 10 opponents - including England's 10-year-old superteeny Luke McShane, were scattered around the world in London, New York, Switzerland, India, Berlin, Israel, France and Denmark. The whole thing was conducted over the Internet and could, in theory, be followed by any web-literate chess fan.

So half an hour after the scheduled start, with a deft http://www.intel.com/, I was looking at the home page of Intel, the sponsors of the event, whence a quick mouse blip led me to the "virtual chess match". That's where it began to get a little confusing.

There was an on-screen button for game selection, followed by the names of Kasparov's 10 opponents, each with a blippable box by it. But should I blip the box, then the button, or the button then the box? And which of the four servers should I choose? I opted for "game select" "Luke McShane" and "Intel Europe" and after a brief wait, there appeared on the screen a picture of a chessboard in its starting position. A line of commentary, however, indicated that the game was well under way, so I pressed another server button. Up on the screen came this chessboard:

Luke, playing Black, was threatening Qg2 mate, and 1.Qxb8+ Kg7 2.Nf4 loses instantly to 2...Qxg3+. Was the champ facing a knock-out? Sadly not. I soon noticed 1.Qxb8+ Kg7 2.Kf2! when 2...Qg2+ 3.Ke1 gets White out of trouble. When trial and many errors had produced the correct combination of button presses to update the position, I deduced that Kasparov had followed my advice, and the game had continued 3...Bf3 4.Rxf3 Qxf3 5.Qf4 with a hopeless position for McShane.

Now more confident in my technological expertise, I blipped through the other games of the contest. A little guesswork was needed where the "select server" button obliterated several squares on White's back rank, but Kasparov seemed to be doing well.

Next time I looked, McShane had resigned. Kasparov ended with seven wins and three draws. At one moment I even tried a button promising a JPG image from a live camera in Munich, but it rudely told me I had an "unsupported SOF marker type Oxc2". Persevering with the GIF image button, I was soon looking at a blurred picture of someone's back. Not quite the image, as in the picture above, that I had hoped for. All in all, a fairly typical day on the Internet.

But do you think that blurred back on my computer screen might have been Kasparov himself?

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