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Since 1st March, 1999
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Chess enters Asian Games

New Delhi: Chess has finally been included in the Asian Games, opening avenues for India to bag an extra gold medal and establish themselves as the most formidable chess power in the continent.

Chess will mark its debut in the 2006 Games in Doha as one of the 33 disciplines.

The just concluded Asian team chess championship in Jodhpur, where the Indians came up with their best-ever performance bagging one silver and two bronze medals, has shown that the India are among the best in the continent. China won both the men’s and women’s events in Jodhpur, but India were without Viswanathan Anand who should be in the team for the Asian Games.

K. Sasikiran, P. Harikrishna, Surya Sekhar Ganguly, Dibyendu Barua and Abhijit Kunte are expected to make up a strong India team for the Doha Games.

County gets a make-over

London: A 20-overs-a-side competition aimed at increasing interest in the new English County cricket season, which starts on Friday, is to be launched in June. The Twenty20 Cup replaces the old Benson and Hedges Cup, which began in 1973, and is the first new event in county cricket for 30 years.

“This is the most ambitious and revolutionary step County cricket has taken since 1963, when the first one-day domestic competition, the Gillette Cup, was born,” England and Wales Cricket Board’s chief executive Tim Lamb said on Thursday.

“The Twenty20 Cup is unashamedly aimed at getting new and younger audiences to watch County cricket matches. Before this year, the shortest County match lasted over five hours; Twenty20 Cup games will be over in two hours 45 minutes with matches played at convenient late afternoon times to make cricket watching more accessible for both school children and office workers alike.”

The 18 first class counties are divided into three groups of six teams each with the group winners and the best runner-up progressing to a finals day on July 19. The competition starts on June 13 and all the 45 group matches will be played over a 12-day period.

Meanwhile, the ECB announced on Thursday that it had negotiated a £7 million ($11.08 million) sponsorship deal with Npower to cover the Twenty20 Cup and men’s and women’s Test cricket until the end of the 2005 season.

National meet from today

Dehradun: Nearly 400 players from across the country will participate in the 34th national Summer bridge championship beginning here on Friday.

In the eight-day championship, organised by the Uttaranchal Bridge Association under the Bridge Federation of India, top ranking players and teams from 30 states and Union Territories would will try to claim Khosala and Agarwala Trophies.

There would be two events — teams of four and pairs — in the tournament. The winners of the two events would be presented Khosala Trophy and Agarwala Trophy, respectively, along with a cash award.

Friendly call-up

Johannesburg: Midfielder Quinton Fortune, who recently returned to the Manchester United squad after injury, has been included in the South Africa squad for an international friendly against Jamaica in Cape Town on April 30.

Coach Ephraim Mashaba on Thursday called up Fortune for the first time since the World Cup finals.

Also recalled is Norwegian-based goalkeeper Emile Baron and Bradley Carnell from the German club VfB Stuttgart, but Mashaba left out the Lokomotiv Moscow defender Jacob Lekgetho. Four uncapped players have been included in the squad.

SquadGoalkeepers: Brian Baloyi, Emile Baron, Moeneeb Josephs; Defenders: Bradley Carnell, Tony Coyle, Lucky Lekgwathi, Mbulelo Mabizela, Thabang Molefe, Mandla Zwane; Midfielders: Quinton Fortune, Stanton Fredericks, Benson Mhlongo, Teboho Mokoena, Lucas Sebona, Joel Seroba, Macbeth Sibaya, Sibusiso Zuma; Strikers: Mabhuti Khanyeza, Lebohang Kukame, Lesley Manyathela, Nkosinathi Nhleko.

n Cricket, tri-series: Bangladesh vs South Africa, from 9 am on ESPN n Soccer, Premier League: Highlights from 9 am on STAR Sports n Cricket, tri-series: India vs South Africa, live from 1.30 pm on STAR Sports

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