TENSE silence, furrowed brows, ticking clocks, a room full of chess boards - Hong Kong is hosting a world chess championship for five days from today. But the grandmasters devising the moves will not be people - they will be computers. Chess is one of the few skills at which computers are inferior to humans - but that is continually being challenged by software whizzes, according to International Computer Chess Association president Tony Marsland. 'Most participants here probably cherish a secret hope that theirs may be the first program to meet the human World Chess Champion for a regular match,' Mr Marsland will tell attendees today. Among the 24 players will be six masters, of which two - the British Chess Genius, and Fritz from The Netherlands - have already beaten flesh-and-blood world champion Gary Kasparov in quick-fire games. But 'it is by no means certain that the occasional loss by the best human players in high-speed games represents the thin end of the wedge, the beginning of the end of human domination over computers in chess', said Mr Marsland. The Eighth Triennial World Computer Chess Championships at Chinese University would be the first of the three-yearly events to be held outside Europe or North America, he said. 'The professionals have their reputations on the line against some very tough amateurs from major universities,' he said. Also squaring up will be personal computer-based programs he described as 'dark horses' - names such as Gandalf from Denmark and Ferret from the US. Mr Marsland, a computer scientist on a temporary sabbatical at the University of Hong Kong, said that by the end of the week 'there may be concrete evidence to support the perennial prediction that within five years the human world champion will lose a regular match to a computer'. On Sunday, six of the territory's best chess brains will be pitted against the electronic leaders. They include international master Wong Meng-kong and the Hong Kong National Team, including Hong Kong National chess champion Yang Xian and open champion Tsang Hon-ki of Chinese University. Although the games will be played on real boards, five of the computers will not be in the country but will relay their moves through the Internet from Europe or North America.