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A Soviet commercial flight landed a week ago in Tel Aviv, bringing a Soviet chess delegation to play in the European Chess Team Championship.

The championship, which opened on Friday in the northern port city of Haifa, features teams from 26 countries, including East bloc nations that have no diplomatic ties with Israel: Bulgaria, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.The 46-member Soviet delegation includes some of the strongest players of the past and present, among them grandmaster and former world champion, Michael Tal and the women's world champion, Maya Zhiburdnidze.

"I'm happy to visit the country where I played 25 years ago, said grandmaster and former world champion, Vassely Smyslov.

One of the Soviet Union's best-known players and former world champion grandmaster, Anatoly Karpov, also arrived on a flight from Madrid, Spain. Karpov will spend several days in Israel as a guest of honor but will not participate in the championship.

World champion, Gary Kasparov, is playing in an individual tournament in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

The Soviet guests brought about 20 boxes of chess supplies for their Israeli colleagues. In exchange, the Israel Chess Federation is covering hotel costs, officials say.

At Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, media attention was focused on Aeroflot Flight 5515, the first such journey from Moscow to Tel Aviv.

"I have flown to Cyprus, Yemen and Syria, but this is the first flight to Israel, of course," said Captain Oleg Agafonov. He was to fly to Greece later because "diplomatic problems" prevented him from spending the night in Tel Aviv.

The Soviet plane is scheduled to fly back to Israel on Dec. 4 to take the delegation home.

The flight follows a tentative agreement between Aeroflot and Israel's El Al Airlines on direct flights between Israel and the Soviet Union, expected to start in January.

Sports ties between Israel and most East bloc countries were largely reduced when those countries cut diplomatic relations following the 1967 Middle East war.

The climate had warmed since Israel and the Soviets exchanged diplomatic missions in 1987 and 1988. At present, Israel maintains full relations with Romania and Hungary and low-level ties with Poland. (AP)

-BELGRADE TOURNAMENT - British grandmaster Nigel Short and world champion Gary Kasparov battled through 60 moves and six hours of play in the ninth round of the Belgrade International Chess Tournament.

Although Kasparov had a slight advantage when they adjourned, analysts said the game was likely to end in a draw.

Kasparov is still leading with six points ahead of second-place Jan Timman of the Netherlands. He will probably have seven points after completing his two adjourned games.

But the Dutchman has not given up the chase. "I still hope to share first place with Kasparov," Timman said after a five-hour game drawn against Simon Agdestein of Norway.

In the 10th round, Kasparov was scheduled to play the black pieces against Agdestain. Short was also scheduled to play the black pieces against Ljubomir Ljubojevic of Yugoslavia.

Besel Kok, director of the Executive Board of the Grandmasters Association, arrived in Belgrade to meet with Kasparov, Timman and Anatoly Karpov, to decide the venue for the World Cup Championship next September.

"We decide here in Belgrade whether it will be held in Lyon, Wellington or some third place," Kok told Reuters.

Standings after nine rounds:

1. Kasparov, 6, with two adjourned

2. Timman, 5 1/2

3. Ehelevest, Agdestein, 5

4. Hjardarson, 4 1/2, and one adjourned; Ljubojevic, 4 1/2

5. Short, 4, and one adjourned; Nicolic, 4

6. Damljanovic, Kozul, Popovicv, 3

-CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SOLVERS! - Dr. Harold Rosenberg, Reed Adams, Ken Frost, Ray Jackson, Hal Harmon, John N. Nielsen, Edwin O. Smith, Prof. Ardean Watts, Raeburn Kennard, Joan Nay, Dean Thompson, Govert Copier, Ray Jackson, William D. Rice, William DeVroom, Monroe Iversen, Brian Griffith, Kay Lundstrom, Paul R. Lindeman, Brian Harrow, Robert Tanner, Mark Stranger, Ted Pathakis, Aaron Kennard, Ann Neil, Al Nicholas, Mel Puller, Hal Knight, Jim Turner, David Kirk, Wendell R. Hurst, Michael Harsch, Ray Jackson, Gene Wagstaff and Justin Blair.