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The superpowers of chess begin 26th Olympiad in Thessaloniki

The 26th Chess Olympiad is under way in Thessaloniki, Greece, with about 100 countries taking part in this team event. Although substantially weakened by the absence of world champion Anatoly Karpov and challenger Gary Kasparov, who are still contesting their world championship match in Moscow, the Soviet team remains the marginal favorite.

The Soviets will also miss the services of such stalwarts as former world champions Boris Spassky, who now plays under the French flag, and Tigran Petrosian, who passed on earlier this year. Other former Russians who now spearhead other teams are Viktor Korchnoi, who plays first board for Switzerland , and Roman Dzindzichashvili, who leads the US team on first board. Soviet emigres Gennadi Sosonko, now second board for the Netherlands, and Lev Alburt, the current US champion, who is first US alternate, are also formidable players.

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For the first time in memory, in fact, the Soviet team will not have either a reigning or former world champion in its lineup, which consists of Alexander Beliavsky, Lev Polugaevsky, Rafael Vaganian, and Vladimir Tukmakov in that order , with Artur Yusupov and 21-year-old Andrei Sokolov as the first and second alternates respectively.

The United States will field a team that should be a contender in the tournament, which began Monday and continues through Dec. 4. Second board is Lubomir Kavalek; third, Larry Christiansen; fourth, Walter Browne. Second alternate is Nick deFirmian. All hold the grandmaster title except deFirmian, who is an international master.

Although the Soviets have dominated the Olympiads since their first entrance in team play in Helsinki in 1952, veteran chess lovers will remember the halcyon days of the 1930s, when the US team triumphed at Prague, 1931; Folkstone, England, 1933; Warsaw, 1935; and Stockholm, 1937. These victories were usually forged by lower-board players who outdistanced their opposition. In Warsaw in 1935, for example, Arthur Dake, the winner of today's featured game, scored 151/ 2 points out of 18 for a phenomenal 86.1 percentage on Board 4. It was infinitely more difficult for Reuben Fine on Board 1, who had to face the likes of Salo Flohr, Alexander Alekhine, Gideon Stahlberg, Savielly Tartakower, Paul Keres, et al.

In the game below, Black's feeble play is crisply refuted by an elegance of style seldom encountered by fourth-board players of the 1930s.

French Defense Dake A. De Burca 1. P-K4 P-K3 2. P-Q4 P-Q4 3. N-QB3 N-KB3 4. B-N5 PxP (a) 5. NxP B-K2 6. BxN BxB 7. N-KB3 N-Q2 8. P-B3 O-O 9. Q-B2 B-K2 (b) 10. O-O-O P-QB3? (c) 11. P-KR4 N-B3 12. NxN ch BxN 13. B-Q3 P-KN3 (d) 14. P-R5 K-N2 15.R-R2 (e) KR-N1 16. Q-Q2 K-R1 (f) 17. Q-R6 B-N2? (g) 18. QxP ch! KxQ 19. PxP, mate A. Although 4. . . . B-K2 and 4. . . . B-N5 are more common, the text is quite playable, if properly followed up. B. The beginning of a passive, defeatist policy. Correct was 9. . . . P-K4, reacting in the center and opening the diagonal for the eventual development of Black's QB. C. Oblivious to the impending disaster, Black makes a meaningless move. Either 10. . . . P-QN3, preparing to play 11. . . . P-QB4 or 11. . . . B-N2, or the immediate 10. . . . P-QB4; 11. PxP, Q-B2 would give Black chances to battle. D. If 13. . . . P-KR3, then 14. P-KN4, intending 15. P-N5, also yields White a virulent attack. E. A simple but effective move of a type often missed by the inexperienced player. White prepares to double rooks before exchanging pawns. If 15. PxP, RPxP; 16. R-R2, Black can play 16. . . . R-R1, relieving the pressure. F. Overlooking White's continuation. 16. . . . K-B1, with an unpleasant but possibly defensible position, was indicated. G. A merciful blunder which shortens the agony of 17. . . . R-N2; 18. PxP, PxP; 19. BxP, Q-N1; 20. BxP, RxB (20. . . . QxB; 21. QxB is no better); 21. QxB ch, Q-N2; 22. RxR ch, KxR; 23. R-R1 ch, K-N1; 24. Q-Q8 ch, K-B2 (24. . . . Q-B1; 25. R-R8 ch); 25. N-K5 ch.