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"Vasily Ivanchuk is flying as high as ever these days," writes Robert Byrne, chess columnist of the New York Times and a former U.S. champion.

The 25-year-old Ukrainian grandmaster, who has frequently been mentioned as a possible challenger for Gary Kasparov's championship, won the Intel World Grand Prix Tournament in London earlier this month after having tied for first with Kasparov in the Professional Chess Association Tournament in Novgorod, Russia, in August.The Intel event was run at 25 minutes per game for each player under a two-game system. In the final, Ivanchuk drew his two games with Viswanathan Anand, then split two five-minute games.

According to the rules, there was one more tie-break game with the stipulation that white gets six extra minutes but must win the game, whereas black gets five minutes but is declared the winner if he draws.

It was Ivanchuk's lot to have black, and he triumphed by making a draw. Ivanchuk was awarded $30,000 and Anand $20,000.

The first of the Intel World Grand Prix competitions was held in Moscow in April, the second in New York in June, and the final one will take place in Paris in November.

Whoever makes the best overall score in all four will receive a $100,000 bonus!

Neither Ivanchuk nor Anand has to meet Gary Kasparov in London. The PCA champion was eliminated in Round 1 by a computer, Pentium Genius 2. Indeed, not until the semifinals was the machine, which is programmed by Richard Lang of England, defeated by Anand, 2-0.

Some grandmasters, including Ivanchuk, refused to play against the computer. They were mollified by being placed in the opposite side of the draw.

- FIDE STAKES - The stakes were high in the recent World Chess Federation (FIDE) Quarterfinal Candidates match. It was held in Sanghi Nagar between Viswana- than Anand of India and Gata Kamsky of the United States.

The winner - if again successful in a semifinal match scheduled for early next year - would earn the right to play for a purse of $3 million and the FIDE title.

An Anand victory leading to a title match would have a special payoff. It almost certainly would fuel an Asian and Middle East chess boom with far-reaching benefits ultimately accruing to both East and West.

At the outset, the India star was a clear favorite. Arguably, the third-best in the world behind Kasparov and Karpov, he had racked up a lopsided 8-2 record against Kamsky in previous play.

For the first five games, the match followed its expected form with Anand building a formidable 31/2-11/2 lead.

But then the impossible - for many the unthinkable - occurred. With a remarkable display of fortitude Kamsky turned the match around by winning two straight games.

After a draw in the eighth game to reach a 4-4 tie, Anand - widely regarded as the world's premiere fast player - shocked his supporters and everyone else when he lost both games in the playoff in which each player had 45 minutes for the first 60 moves.

In subsequent interviews, both Anand's trainer Elizbar Ubilava and Kamsky's trainer Roman Dzindzichashvili questioned the Indian grandmaster's staying power.

But whatever Anand's general physical condition and stamina, it does not seem to have hindered his previous spectacular ascent to the top of the chess pyramid.

If he was indeed weary and depleted at the end, credit must go to Gata Kamsky and his relentless, battering style.

The young American has spectacularly emerged as a genuine and fascinating chess hero - albeit still a relative unknown in his own country.