If players had suggested years ago that an important tournament be run on the knockout format, they would have been told that they were transforming a combat of skill into a lottery.

Yet the just-finished United States Championship in Los Angeles was indeed an elimination event, as was the previous one, writes Robert Byrne of the New York Times. Two losses or a loss and a draw knocked a player out, under the newly adopted rules of this national event.Lately some players have taken the view that the knockout format shortens a tournament and thus makes less of a demand on the time and attention of the fans.

Others have pointed out that it heightens the tension because draws do not count; one cannot draw cautiously with the toughest opponents and hope to outscore them by thrashing the weaker ones, a common strategy in round-robin competitions.

Still others argue that there is less wear and tear on the players because there are fewer games to play. Moreover, if knocked out early, one can pack up and take off for another tournament.

All true, but it is also true that last year's U.S. champion, the grandmaster Lev Alburt of New York, was knocked out in the preliminary round this time. A spirited effort in the game with Maxim Dlugy, a grandmaster from Englewood, N.J., enabled him to recover from a loss and set up his eventual victory on a tie-breaker speed game.

- QUARTER-FINALS - Soviet players Vassily Ivanchuk and Artur Yusupov agreed to a draw in their adjourned seventh game at the world championship quarter-finals without play resuming in Brussels, Belgium.

Most analysts felt when the game was adjourned that the position was completely draw, Reuter News reported.

The result leaves Yusupov in the position of needing to win his eighth game, to level with Ivanchuk and force him into a weekend tie-break.

"Have you heard?" he asked after the match. "Is it over?"

It transpired that he was not talking about the chess game, but about the fact that the coup d'etat in the Soviet Union appeared to be collapsing.

The accumulated points (with the first player to exceed four points in the eight games going on to the semifinals, which will be played early next year):

J. Timman, 41/2

V. Anand, A. Karpov, 31/2

B. Gelfand, A. Yusupov, 3

V. Korchnoi, 21/2

"It went a lot easier than I thought it would," Dutchman Jan Timman, 40, said after holding the Swiss veteran Victor Korchnoi to a draw in 45 moves.

Former world champion Anatoly Karpov cannot say the same. Karpov and chess prodigy Viswanathan Anand, 21, of India, played to their fifth draw in seven games to keep their series even at 31/2 points each.

The winner of the challenger series will play the world champion, Gary Kasparov, for the title in 1993.

From Malibu in Southern California by Associated Press:

"World chess champion Gary Kasparov of the Soviet Union, vacationing in Malibu, suggested a week ago Wednesday that Mikhail Gorbachev may have orchestrated the coup in his homeland.

"He looks innocent now," said Kasparov, who returns home late next month.

"In Kennebunkport, Maine, President Bush dismissed such a Gorbachev-inspired scheme as ridiculous, saying, `I would dismiss that 100 percent.'

"The 28-year-old Kasparov appeared on CNN's `Larry King Live' and predicted the Soviet upheaval would end within days.

"Jeanne Kirkpatrick, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was on the same program and disagreed, saying it would last months.

"Kasparov said he felt vindicated.

" `I kept saying that the coup would have no chance to succeed and democracy will be restored within a couple of days,' Kasparov said. `I'm very happy about it, not because my prediction was right, but because my people aren't suffering.' "

- CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SOLVERS! - George L. Cavanaugh, Edwin O. Smith, David D. Kirk, Monroe Iversen, Eugene Wagstaff, O. Kent Berg, A.R. Peabody, Ken Frost, Justin Christiansen, Nathan Kennard, Stephen Kennard, Richard Schow, Allan Schow, Hal Harmon, Ben J. Peterson, Alison Hermance, Daniel Ricks, Roger Neuman, Kay Lundstrom, Stanley Hunt, Kim Barney, Gordon W. Greene, Kelly Bryson, Craig Bryson, Elsa L. Oldroyd, Alex Markec, Ted Pathakis, Jack Crandall, Knute Petersen, Hal Knight, Alex Hart, William DeVroom, Vern Smith and Jim Reed.