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Negi slays Yifan's dragon; Sasikiran loses plot

Rakesh Rao

Caruana Fabiano admits to being ‘lucky' again

He and Laznicka lead with full two points

NEW DELHI: K. Sasikiran and Hou Yifan, the oldest and the youngest in the field of six Grandmasters, found themselves sailing in the same boat. After defeats in the first two rounds, Sasikiran was looking for some respect from the younger rivals and Yifan was hoping for some mercy from the older boys.

On the second day of the AAI International Grandmasters chess tournament here, Parimarjan Negi left Sasikiran's company at the bottom of the table with a much-needed confidence-boosting victory over the women's World champion Hou Yifan by slaying the ‘dragon' variation of Sicilian Defence adopted by the Chinese teenager.

After six decisive battles in two days, the top two seeds — Italy's Caruana Fabiano and Czech Republic's Viktor Laznicka — maintained a ‘perfect' score with two wins.

Fabiano, let off the hook by Negi in the first round, admitted to being “lucky” again after cashing in on Sasikiran's uncharacteristic error. Laznicka benefitted from some uncalled aggression from Wesley So after much of the game was fought on an even keel.

Negi's victory brought expected cheer among those who followed the game in the commentary room. After the first 10 moves were played on theoretical lines, Negi changed tack and a not-so-well-prepared Yifan also decided the go head on into unchartered territory.

The local lad looked better off in a variation where the players castle on opposite flanks and launch counter offensives in a hurry but the winning plan appeared unclear. Negi took 20 minutes each for two successive moves after 15 moves but managed to find the desired position.

In trouble

Negi's idea to temporarily sacrifice a piece foxed Yifan and she slowly found herself in serious trouble. Negi promptly traded his rook for a knight on the 24th move, captured a kingside pawn with his queen and tightened his grip. Yifan's defensive plans looked inadequate as Negi pressed more pieces into service for a sweet victory.

Not before long, Sasikiran gave up his struggle for survival having tossed away a promising position for the better part of this Caro-Kann game. At one point, Sasikiran looked better with black pieces but his choice to take a queenside pawn on the 25th move started his troubles.

Later, Sasikiran, struggling with his time management for the second day, faltered again when he fell to the lure of taking a central pawn on the 33rd move. This proved fatal even as both players were under severe time trouble. Sasikiran cracked and gave up before the 40-move mark.


Fabiano maintained that he did not know how he won the game. “I really don't know. It was so complex. At one stage I had 30 seconds for the last five moves and I guess, Sasi had less than five seconds. I think, Sasikiran was better at some point but did not see one of my tricks involving my bishop. Thereafter, my position kept getting better.”

Sasikiran said, “I played much better today than yesterday. But I need to manage my time better,” indicating that clock once again played a part in his defeat.

The results (second round): Caruana Fabiano (Ita, 2) bt K. Sasikiran (Ind, 0) in 45 moves; Viktor Laznicka (Cze, 2) bt Wesley So (Phi, 1) in 39 moves; Parimarjan Negi (Ind, 1) bt Hou Yifan (Chn, 0) in 32 moves.

Third round pairing: Yifan-Fabiano; Wesley-Negi; Sasikiran-Laznicka .

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