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Looking for a bargain in a computer chess set? Save enough to pay your expenses to attend the U.S. Open in Los Angeles for two weeks!

A barrier fell in the 1991 World Microcomputer Championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Robert Byrne, chess editor of the New York Times, reports.After a chess machine called "Chess Machine" won with a score of 6-1 in the seven-round Swiss system tournament, the manufacturer, TASC BV,of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, has put it on sale for $750. The previous champion, "Mephisto" is in the $10,000 price range.

But who needs such a device? Surely not the 95 percent of the world's players who lose to far less computers. No, "Chess Machine," which runs on a card that plugs into a standard slot in an IBM compatible personal computer, is for top tournament players who need a tiger of a practice partner that can also be used for research.

"Chess Machine" uses reduced-instruction set computing (RISC), with 512 kilobytes available for $495. Either may be obtained from ICE, Inc., P.O. Box C-19457, Seattle, Wash., 98109.

At the end of the event, "Chess Machine" played a four-game match to a tie with "Mephisto," which had finished tied for third.

This may have solidified its championship result, but did not let it demonstrate its superiority. In the last two match games, "Chess Machine's" programmers permitted "Mephisto" to resign one game and get a draw in the other, even though "Chess Machine" held the advantage in both.

Apparently, neither computer's programmers wanted to risk the vagaries involved in playing the games out.

In the second round of the 15-computer tournament, "Chess Machine" won from "Cumulus" with good opening preparation and an accurately played mating attack.

- QUEENS? - No woman has ever crashed the male citadel of top-level chess. "It's sad, but true," says Larry Evans, former U.S. champion, "and nobody can explain exactly why."

Freudians argue that women lack a subconscious urge to kill their father, who is symbolized by the chess king. This theory has been largely exploded, and many leading players hold clashing opinions.

"Chess is a fight, and men are more aggressive." (Enevoldsen)

"It's something biological. I just don't know why." (Eligoric)

"Women play worse, but they look beautiful. You might as well ask why so few women are famous composers or mathematicians." (Robert Byrne)

"Women play worse because they are more interested in men than in chess." (Lombardy)

"Girls learn fast that beating boys at chess doesn't make them too popular with boys." (Larry Evans)

"Maybe those women who play chess are not the best ones." (Kavalek)

FIDE, the world chess body, has separate championships for men and women. This is hard to justify because unlike sports such as tennis, no muscles are needed to push pawns.

Men who play tournament chess outnumber women by about nine to one, and FIDE keeps separate rating lists. Gary Kasparov, 28, leads at 2800, while Judith Polgar, 15, tops the distaff side at 2540.

Susan Polgar, 21, seems to have hit a snag at 2510, while the middle sister, Sofia, 17, lags behind at 2425.

"We're all born with genius - until society kills it," said the Polgar sisters' father who wisely insisted that his girls compete mainly in mixed events. The amazing Polgar sisters each won gold medals in Hungary in several female Olympiads but have yet to sustain this success against male grandmasters.

While Susan competed at the 2nd Pan-Pacific in San Francisco, where she landed near the bottom of the 12-person field, her two sisters basked in the sun. Sort of.

- WORLD CHAMPION - Gary Kasparov, the world champ, will attend the U.S. Open Tournament that will be held in the Marriott Hotel near the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) from July 28 through August 9. Between 800 and 900 players are expected to play. First prize is a guaranteed $5,000.

- CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SOLVERS! - Edwin O. Smith, Elsa L. Oldroyd, Vern Smith, Eugene Wagstaff, Barney Christiansen, Gordon W. Greene, Kent Berg, Glannin Cloward, Vic and Bonnie Devenish, Jim Reed, Hal Knight, David D. Kirk, Raeburn Kennard, Stephen Kennard, Nathan Kennard, Jack Crandall, Camrin Copier, Stephen P. Clark, Monroe Iversen, William DeVroom, Ben J. Peterson, Richard Schow, Joe Sias, Steven L. Stake, Prof. Ardean Watts, David Wilhite, Ted Pathakis, Stanley Hunt, Hal Harmon, Alison Hermance, Brian Harrow, Robert O. Lee, Kay Lundstrom, Karen B. Lee, Russell Anderson, Craig D. Bryson, Ramon Bassette, Larry Butler, Kim Barney, Roger Neuman and David Moody.