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Gary Kasparov's reign as world chess champion is assured for another three years. As for Soviet domination of the game, there's no end in sight. Kasparov retained his crown in the latest of many matches with ex-champion Anatoly Karpov by building a 12-11 lead with one game left, so that the best Karpov could do was tie him, in which case the champion keeps his title.

Like earlier matches between the two Soviet arch-rivals, this one was closely fought. The first half, in New York, produced one win for each and 10 draws for a 6-6 standoff. Kasparov pulled ahead midway in the second half, played in Lyon, France, to make the overall score 4-3 with 17.

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Even as these two battled, eliminations were under way to determine the next challenger in 1993. As usual, the Soviets have achieved a disproportionate share of success so far.

Preliminary tournaments narrowed the field to 15: seven Soviets, one defector who lives in Switzerland, two others from Eastern Europe (Yugoslavia and Hungary), and just five from the rest of the world (two Britons plus one each from the Netherlands, Germany, and India).

With title matches held in three-year cycles, the United States is already out of contention until 1996 at the earliest - but that's hardly unusual. The Soviets have monopolized the game so completely since World War II that except for American Bobby Fischer's brief reign from 1972 to 1975, no player born in another country has even reached the position of challenger.

Some reasons for Soviet domination: a long tradition in the game; fewer competing attractions than in the West; a society that glorifies chess accomplishments; and government support for teaching and training promising players.

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