A very happy, healthful and prosperous new year!

From Reuters News Agency, this flash from Amsterdam:The American grandmaster Boris Gulko squeezed into a first-place tie Tuesday in the Professional Chess Association Tournament. He defeated a 20-year-old Russian, Sergei Tivyakov, in the tournament being held in Groningen, Netherlands.

The ninth-round victory gave Gulko, 46, a share of the lead with Viswanathan Anand, the world's No. 3-ranked player. Anand, 24, from India, played to a draw against Michael Adams of Britain.

Gulko, playing the black pieces against Tivyakov, chose a Sicilian defense and after a positional struggle found himself with the advantage of a bishop against three pawns in a complex endgame. The Russian's king was outmaneuvered and resigned on move 61.

Vladimir Kramnik, an 18-year-old Russian star, defeated Gregory Kaidanov of the United States to stay in a tie for third place, a half point behind Gata Kamsky, 18, of the United States, who was level with Kramnik.

The Groningen tournament, which is being played to find a challenger for Professional Chess Association world champion Gary Kasparov, allows seven players to qualify for the next stage of competition.

The first prize is $40,000.

- COMPLAINT - One might expect the winner of a $52,550 first prize in one of the most prestigious tournaments of the year to be filled with glow. And that criticism of the system of play would be the farthest thing from his mind.

But not so with Anatoly Karpov of Russia, the former world champion. He did not let his triumph in the 17th Interpolis Tournament, which ended early in December in Tilburg, Netherlands, prevent him from protesting about how it was run.

Karpov did not like to play under the knockout system, whether it requires one or a few games against one opponent. The rule that the loser is dropped out of the competition means, for him, that too much depends on a small number of games rather than the overall result, as in round-robin play.

In the Swiss magazine, Die Schachworche, Karpov wrote that Robert Byrne, a former U.S. champion and chess editor of the New York Times, has noted: "In tennis, you can make many mistakes, but in chess a single game can lead to a loss."

And in Tilburg, Karpov's victory came to depend on his winning the second tie-break game of 20 minutes for each player for all moves after he and Vasily Ivanchuk of Ukraine had drawn two regulation games and the first quick-play game.

- CONSISTENT - Jun Xie of China used the King's Indian Defense every game she played black in her women's world defense against Nana Ioseliani of Georgia, and what a weapon it was!

The 23-year-old champion won five times and had one draw out of six games with it in the series. The world title match was held at the Metropole Palace Hotel in Monaco.

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The reason given by the experts that this mode of play suits Jun so well is that her strength is in daring tactics and pyrotechnical combinations, and these are critical in the King's Indian, which concedes white an early spacial superiority and relies on a speculative counterattack against the king.

Ioseliani repeatedly overlooked the seriousness of the black threats, or else she failed to calculate deeply enough to unearth Jun's beautifully hidden tactical motifs.

- ATTACKING - There is a fine line between having the courage of your convictions and being foolhardy. There is indeed something grand about playing into your opponent's strength, yet if you keep at it and suffer one loss after another without reprieve, it just begins to look as though you are defiantly impractical.

It might be good advice to confine your opponent to a predominantly positional game of quiet maneuvering.

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