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"Now I understand how in a match psychology is very important," India's Viswanathan Anand explained to Shelby Lyman after convincingly defeating Arthur Yusupov of Russia in a World Federation (FIDE) candidates match, early last year.

But only months later psychology was Anand's apparent downfall when he blew a two-point lead and then lost a two-game playoff to Gata Kamsky of the United States.At stake was a possible shot at Anatoly Karpov's world title.

At the end, Anand's play had become unrecognizable.

Recently, Anand had another shot at Kamsky. This time the prize was a match with Gary Kasparov for the Professional Chess Association Intel World Championship.

The event began ominously for the Indian grandmaster. In an apparent winning position, Anand - reputedly the fastest tournament player in the world - self-destructed. After only 32 moves, he ran out of time and forfeited the game!

But then the equally unexpected occurred.

Perhaps gaining confidence from the ease in which he had outplayed Kamsky before losing, Anand pulled himself together to win the match by scoring 61/2-31/2 in the next 10 games.

A native of Madras, India, Anand will be the first non-Westerner to play for the world title.

His victory over Kamsky and the match with Kasparov are virtually guaranteed to spark a fever in the non-Western world.

- PRECOCIOUS - It was scarcely more than a year ago when Peter Leko fulfilled his credentials for grandmaster at the earliest age in history, 14 years, 9 months.

In late March the precocious Hungarian advanced his career another signal step by winning outright for the first time in high-level competition.

Leko captured first place in the Copenhagen International Tournament with an 8-3 score. He surpassed seven grandmasters and four international masters in an event held to celebrate the 60th jubilee of the Bronshoi Skak Foreneing Club. He went undefeated and finished a point ahead of his nearest rival, the Ukrainian International Master Andrei Maksimenko.

Leko is following the path of Anatoly Karpov, who became mature without going through a wild shoot-'em-up Sturm und Drang period.

In his Round 7 game with the aggressive Swedish grandmaster Jonny Hector, it was Leko whose precise play destroyed his 31-year-old opponent's rambunctious gambit.

- HELPING OTHERS - Twenty minutes after sunrise, the campus of the Russell Elementary School in Brownsville, Texas, 21 students leaned over desks or sat cross-legged on the floor, absorbed in the challenge before them.

The challenge was chess, an age-old game of strategy that is helping a number of kids at the school improve their grades while installing responsibility and discipline, teachers and parents say.

Members of Texas' top-ranked elementary school chess club voluntarily come to school an hour early every day to play a game that has brought publicity and pride to one of Brownsville's many schools struggling to improve student performance.

How popular is chess? On one recent morning, one game was played on the floor because there were not enough desks to hold the game boards. The team has 30 members, and 21 of them show up for the morning practice.

The club is fresh from a victorious trip to Austin in late March, where it won the state championship for elementary school chess - sanctioned by the United States Chess Federation (USCF) - for the third year in a row.

In the past two years, Russell chess players have placed in the top 20 at national high school-level competitions, held in Michigan and North Carolina. They didn't go this year. They didn't have enough time to raise money for the trip.

The students' mentor is Jose Juan Guajardo, a fifth-grade teacher who started the club five years ago. Some of his students were arriving at school early and were getting into trouble before the bell rang, so Guajardo opened his classroom an hour early and began teaching chess.

Guajardo notes that 90 percent of Chess Club members have passed all portions of state-mandates and year-around achievement tests. He adds, however, that the club is not the exclusive domain of honor students. "We have members from every group in the student body."


White to move and mate in two. Solution to Problem No. 2979: 1. Q-R8 (Qa8). Congratulations to the solvers!