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Four of the world's top players met in London Monday in the semifinals of a contest to provide the next challenger for the world championship, now held by Gary Kasparov of the Soviet Union.

Reuters reported that former world champion, Anatoly Karpov, now the world number two, was scheduled to play fellow Soviet Grandmaster Artur Yusupov, while Britain's Jon Speelman was to play Jan Timman of The Netherlands.The winners of the two elimination matches will be pitted in the candidates final in Britain in January for the seat across the board from Kas-parov in the next world series.

Karpov, 38, is bidding to take part in a record fifth final. He took the title in 1975 when Bobby Fischer, from the United States, declined to defend his championship (because of the arbitrary actions of FIDE). Karpov held the title for 10 years until he was beaten by Kasparov.

Kasparov also defeated him in finals in 1986 and 1987.

Yusupov, who is ranked 14th in the world standings, was beaten by Karpov in the 1988 Soviet championships but is regarded as a tough prospect if Karpov should play below his best - as he has done in a couple of tournaments recently.

Karpov and Yusupov were members of the Soviet team that won the last Chess Olympiad. The Netherlands took second and Britain took third.

Timman, who missed the Olympiad to prepare for the world championship candidates' semifinals, is ranked eighth-equal in the world ratings. His British opponent Speelman is rated 13th.

The Dutch player is regarded as the most successful in the West since Fischer retired. He was also a semifinalist in the candidates series in 1986.

He defeated Hungarian veteran Lajos Portisch for his current semifinal place while Speelman was a surprise victor over the British No. 1 player, Nigel Short.

-"MACHINE VS. MIND" - This is the heading of a New York Times editorial following the announcement that Kasparov is going to play "Deep Thought," the world champion chess computer.

"Chess playing is a notable accomplishment of the human mind. But computer programs have steadily improved and are now outwitting even the best human players. Is that a victory or defeat for human intelligence and creativity?

" `Deep Thought,' a program written by a team at Carnegie-Mellon University and run on a specially designed chip, has already beaten one grandmaster. Another, the Times chess columnist, Robert Byrne, has described how he, too, succumbed to the calculating automaton. `The time when a computer wrests the world chess championship from a human being may soon be approaching,' Mr. Byrne warns.

"When that happens, will anyone want to watch humans play chess? If the best games are between computer programs, why pay any attention to epic struggles like that between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spaasky, at Reykjavik?

"Technological optimists dismiss such qualms. The computer programs are creations of the human mind, they say, and just as much cause for celebration as the most elegant insights of history's great chess players. The programs needn't discourage human players in any way! Did sprinting die just because cars could go faster?

"Machines, say the optimists, are merely extensions of the human mind and body. The biological evolution of the human species may have faltered, now that civilization has buffered nature's selective forces. But evolution is proceeding instead, the biologist Alfred Lotka suggested, through the man-made machines that enhance human capabilities.

"That is cold comfort. Maybe no one feels threatened by the humdrum of number-crunching computers that figure payrolls or mimic wind tunnels. But the chess programs are invading the special human domain of creativity. Soon new gambits and openings will be named after programs, not people.

"If neurophysiologists finally comprehend the myriad neuron network of the human brain, computers will doubtless be able to mimic the system's behavior and, at the touch of a button, spew forth output equivalent to its finest restored creations. A mechanical Mozart? A programmable Newton? A Milton with vision restored, artificially? How could the human spirit not be discouraged?

"Next month Gary Kasparov is to play two exhibition games against `Deep Thought' in New York. Let mechanical minds cheer for `Deep Thought'; all others had better root for Mr. Kasparov."

-BREAKS RECORD - From The Hague, Netherlands, Reuters reported that Kasparov, had broken a record rating set by Fischer at the height of his career 17 years ago.

The 26-year-old Soviet champion emerged from a tournament in the Dutch city of Tilburg with a rating of 2,795 ELO points, surpassing Fischer's 1972 rating of 2,785.

Kasparov ended the Tilburg tournament by forcing Norwegian grandmaster Simen Agdestein to resign on the 30th move, gaining the Soviet 10 points. Kasparov showed his form by scoring 12 out of the 14 points available at Tilburg.

ELO ratings are calculated using a complex mathematical formula that takes into account the number of wins and defeats and the strength of opponents.

Fischer reached his record in 1972, the same year he became world champion by defeating Soviet player Boris Spaasky in what experts regard as one of the best world championships ever.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SOLVERS! - Monroe M. Iversen, Dean Thompson, Brian Harrow, Jim Turner, Lloyd Eldredge, Ken Frost, Mike Nelson, Brian Griffith, Hal Harmon, Al Nicholas, Erick DeMillard, Hal Knight, Grant Hodson, Mel Puller, William D. Rice, Covert Copier, Aaron Kennard, Raeburn Kennard, Ann Neil, Mark Stranger, Dr. Harold Rosenberg, William DeVroom, Edwin O. Smith, Professor Ardean Watts, Paul R. Lindeman, Ted Pathakis, Carleen Pathakis, Kay Lundstrom, Robert Tanner and Michael Marsch.