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Wednesday, June 23, 1999 Published at 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK


Sci/Tech

Kasparov's chess pieces disappear

Kasparov will have 24 hours per move

As the world's chess fans gathered on the Internet to pit their wits against champion Garry Kasparov, unorthodox rooks, knights, bishops and queens began appearing and disappearing on the board.


MSNBC reporter Bob Sullivan: "One server disconnected from the voting mechanism"
Billed as the greatest Internet chess challenge ever, the chance to log on and compete against the world's greatest player attracted over two million hits in the first few hours.

But the Microsoft Gaming Zone Web site hosting the tournament was not up to the challenge.


[ image: Kasparov: Probably the strongest chess player ever]
Kasparov: Probably the strongest chess player ever
As Bob Sullivan, technology reporter with MSNBC News watched, things began to go wrong, before a single move had been played.

"Chess pieces were landing all over the board," Mr Sullivan reported.

According to MSNBC, the problems were due to server overload - a technical hitch rather than a hacker spoiling the site on purpose.

"It is certainly an embarrassment for the company," said Mr Sullivan.

First move

After Mr Kasparov's opening move (Pawn to E-4) in New York on Monday, he travelled to Washington, DC, where users guided by four young chess experts initiated the "Sicilian Defence", moving pawn to C-5.

The World Team's first move was chosen by 41% of those voting.

Kasparov declined to make another move in order to maintain the "suspense," said Audrey Waters, the chess champion's spokeswoman. He has 24 hours to respond.

Deep Blue challenge

Mr Kasparov is widely regarded as the greatest chess player ever. He has been particularly strong over the last few months with three convincing tournament victories in a row.


Grandmaster Jonathan Speelman: "A gimmick, but interesting all the same"
In 1996 and 1997, he played two six-game matches against the Deep Blue computer, winning the first and losing the second.

Millions of Net users are believed to have followed those games.

It was the first time a computer had defeated a reigning world champion in a match played under classical chess rules. The chances of the world beating Mr Kasparov seem lower.



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