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Sasikiran downs Laznicka in marathon

Rakesh Rao

NEW DELHI: It seems as though K. Sasikiran needs to sit behind white pieces to shine the brightest.

Following an engaging battle lasting 72 moves spread over six and a half hours, the ONGC officer came out stronger against Victor Laznicka, the second seed.

After failing to open the account twice with black pieces, the country's second strongest player produced a winning performance in a positional battle to bring down the Czech, one of the two overnight leaders in the AAI International Grandmasters chess tournament here on Friday.

All-win

Top seed Fabiano Caruana posted a fluent victory over Hou Yifan, and Laznicka's defeat made the Italian the only player with an all-win record. Caruana's job was made easier once Yifan became too ambitious at one point of this 37-move encounter.

Caruana's third victory, and the first in a convincing manner in three days, also resulted in Yifan's third straight loss.

Sasikiran dominated the better part of this Catalan game and appeared poised for an impressive victory.

Laznicka, looking for a hat-trick of wins, was on the defensive as Sasikiran developed his pieces well and prepared for the attack down the middle of the board.

After capturing a central pawn on the 38th move, Sasikiran appeared to be closing in on victory with Laznicka pushing himself to complete 40 moves in the stipulated two hours.

Looking good to win in more ways than one, Sasikiran lost his way somewhat, but eventually took a circuitous route to victory.

“I should have won earlier than I did. It is good to win. After the first two games, I felt my time management needed improvement and today, I made a conscious effort to keep time on my side.”

Account open

Sasikiran may have taken his time to land the knockout punch on his rival, who looked at his mercy for the better part of the battle, but the victory opened the account for the oldest participant in the fray.

Earlier, Parimarjan Negi walked away with a comfortable 30-move draw with Wesley So with black pieces.

This was the fourth successive draw involving the two players. In fact this was the only draw in nine games so far in the competition.

Negi had nursed hopes of a possible victory after Wesley took nearly 30 moves following the 19th move.

In a potentially complex position, the Filipino managed to filter out the best possible continuation.

A series of exchanges triggered by Wesley neutralised the position and by the 26th move a draw looked imminent.

Since the tournament rules do not allow a draw before 30 moves, the teenagers played out another four moves and signed peace.

The results:

Hou Yifan (Chn, 0) lost to Fabiano Caruana (Ita, 3) in 37 moves; Wesley So (Phi, 1.5) drew with Parimarjan Negi (Ind, 1.5) in 30 moves; K. Sasikiran (Ind, 1) bt Viktor Laznicka (Cze, 2) in 72 moves.

Fourth round pairing:

Wesley-Caruana; Sasikiran-Yifan; Laznicka-Negi.

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