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Negi advances; six share second spot

Rakesh Rao

NEW DELHI: National champion Parimarjan Negi battled a phase of uncertainty but eventually triumphed, largely due to a late error of judgement from Rahul Sangma, to become the first player with a ‘perfect' score after six rounds of the Rs. 1.35 million Parsvnath International Open chess tournament here on Tuesday.

The 38-move victory in the exchange variation of Ruy Lopez lifted Negi half a point above the field after six players began the round as leaders. Sahaj Grover, who stunned second seed Ni Hua last week, proved equal to Lenic Luka, the fifth seed from Slovenia, in just 21 moves to stay firmly on course for a GM-norm.

Later, former champion Abhijeet Gupta held top seeded Ukrainian Alexander Areshchenko. Just half-a-point behind Negi at 5.5 points are his seventh-round rival Areshchenko, Abhijeet, Grover and Luka besides the victorious GM duo of S. Arun Prasad and Ukraine's Mikhailo Oleksienko.

Most results came on expected lines with several highly ranked players pitted against not-so-strong rivals. The exceptions were Diptayan Das holding 25th seeded GM S. Kidambi after 51 turns and R. Premanth splitting the point with 11th seed Russian GM Martyn Kravtsiv in just 26 moves.

The Negi-Sangma battle was the second between the players in five weeks. Negi, armed with two straight victories over Sangma, started as an obvious favourite. But all credit for Sangma for giving nothing away to the Grandmaster out of the opening phase. In a complicated middle-game, both players had reasons to be optimistic in an apparently unclear position.

With both players running behind time before the first time control, Sangma maintained check-mating threats on Negi's castled king. Negi did gain a pawn but it was Sangma's erroneous rook-move on the 36th turn that proved decisive.

Later, in an unusually long game, lasting 193 moves to be precise, Tamil Nadu's Shyam Nikhil checkmated Nepal's Sujendra Prasad Shrestha after five hours and 20 minutes.

The results (Indians unless stated):

Sixth round: Abhijeet Gupta (5.5) drew with Alexander Areshchenko (Ukr, 5.5); Sahaj Grover (5.5) drew with Luka Lenic (Slo, 5.5); Parimarjan Negi (6) bt Rahul Sangma (5); Neelotpal Das (4.5) lost to Mikailo Oleksienko (Ukr, 5.5); S. Arun Prasad (5.5) bt Himanshu Sharma (4.5); Diptayan Ghosh (5) drew with S. Kidambi (5); Hi Hua (Chn, 5) bt Deepak Katiyar (4.5); G. V. Sai Krishna (4) lost to Yuriy Kuzubov (Ukr, 5); Markus Ragger (Aut, 5) bt Julien Lamorelle (Fra, 4).

Sayantan Das (4) lost to Konstantin Chernyshov (Rus, 5); Evgeny Postny (Isr, 5) bt N. Srinath (4); Hannes Stefansson (Isl, 5) bt Varugeese Koshy (4); R. Premnath (4.5) drew with Martyn Kravtsiv (Ukr, 4); Yaroslav Zherebukh (Ukr, 5) bt Puneet Jaiswal (4); Gurpreet Singh Maras (4) lost to Alon Greenfeld (Isr, 5); Ziaur Rahman (Ban, 5) bt M. Vinoth Kumar (4); K. Ramu (4) lost to Henrik Danielsen (Isl, 5); Levon Babujian (Arm, 5) bt Shardul Gagare (4); Avigdor Bykhovsky (Rus, 5) bt Shreyans Shah (4).

Sameer Kathmale (4) lost to Vaibhav Suri (5); G. Akash (4) lost to Swapnil Dhopade (5); Saptarshi Roy (5) bt Aravindh Chithambaram (4); Chanrasish Majumdar (4.5) drew with G. A. Stany (4.5); Naveen Kanna (5) bt Rupankar Nath (4); Shyam Nikhil (5) drew with Sujendra Prasad Shrestha (Nep, 4).

Top-10 seventh-round pairings: Areshchenko-Negi; Luka-Arun; Oleksienko-Abhijeet; Kuzubov-Grover; Bykhovsky-Hua; Suri-Ragger; Chernyshov-Saptarshi; Dhopade-Postny; Sangma-Zherebukh; Kanna-Nikhil .

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