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Monday, 8 May, 2000, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Fury at computer's next move
chess game
Players say chess is about testing human skills
Chess champions are up in arms over plans to allow a computer to compete in a national contest for the first time.

The computer, called Fritz SSS, is to take part in the Dutch chess championship.

What's next? Allowing robots riding mopeds to compete in the Boston Marathon?

Chess protester
One grandmaster, Paul van der Sterren, is refusing to play against the computer and has already lost the competition as a result.

And the protest movement is gathering pace - a website dedicated to opposing Fritz's participation has received more than 560 e-mails.

The protesters point out that computers and people have totally different qualities, arguing that a competition between them is unfair and pointless.

"Humans are not allowed to consult notes while playing chess, but computers keep copious notes in their memories," says one e-mailer.

Prize money raised

The Broekhuis Dutch Chess Championship, organised by the Royal Dutch Chess Federation, takes place from 7-19 May in Rotterdam.

Eleven human players will be battling against one another for the prize money, which has been increased by 70,000 Guilders (18,500) to 166,250 Guilders (44,000), in response to the outcry.

Organisers say Fritz will not be eligible for the prize money - but it will be favourite to win the tournament.

Fritz has been causing controversy in the chess world since 1993.

In 1995, it won the world computer chess championship in Hong Kong, ahead of supercomputer, Deep Blue, and last year, it won the super-strong Frankfurt Masters, qualifying it to play against the world champion next year.

Chess hits headlines

The Royal Dutch Chess Federation says the computer will be barred from qualifying for next year's event and from gaining a spot on the national team.

And federation officials say Fritz will help win publicity for the event, reaching people who do not read specialist publications.

But angry players insist the move is like allowing a car to compete against runners in a 100-metre dash.

They point out that according to chess rules, a player cannot be forced to play against a computer. But Paul van der Sterren has lost the contest automatically through refusing to play it.

"If a computer plays, one human chess player cannot," they say.

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