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Sasikiran lets Caruana off the hook

Rakesh Rao

NEW DELHI: K. Sasikiran missed a golden opportunity to complete a perfect sequence of revenge on Wednesday and let the top seed and current leader Fabiano Caruana escape with a draw in an eventful seventh-round action of AAI International Grandmasters chess tournament here.

After So Wesley and Hou Yifan turned the tables on higher ranked Victor Laznicka and Parimarjan Negi, in that order, Sasikiran blew away a one-pawn advantage and his winning chances with a series of inferior moves in the Kings Indian game lasting 92 moves in nearly seven hours.

A fortuitous draw for Caruana, coupled with the defeat of second placed Laznicka, increased the Italian's lead to 1.5 points. With three rounds to go, Caruana has 5.5 points, with Sasikiran, Laznicka and Wesley sharing the second spot with four points each.

Negi's woes continue

Meanwhile, Negi's cup of woes was overflowing with the youngster slipping to the bottom of the table with a fifth loss. Yifan, the reigning Women's World champion, settled a score having lost to Negi in the second round.

Opting to play the Sicilian Defence for the third time in four games with black pieces, Negi struggled from the early part of the game. His pieces, particularly the knights, remained undeveloped even as Yifan placed her pieces in harmony to gain the initiative. Firmly and grimly on the defensive, Negi lost a central pawn in the middle game but Yifan could not find an easier way to victory.

She loosened her grip at times to raise Negi's hopes of escaping with a draw. She then handed over Negi the extra pawn to take the game into an ending involving a rook each and equal pawns. But Yifan's positional superiority was overwhelming for an error-prone Negi who gave up after 62 moves.

“Negi made some mistakes in the beginning. I should have won the game much earlier but missed an easier winning continuation,” said Yifan.

Avenging a loss

Earlier, Wesley avenged the second-round loss suffered to Laznicka.

“After a long time I got a position to my liking,” said Wesley and continued, “in the past week, I was not getting any clear advantage out of the opening so I was drawing the games. But today, I am very happy. This is the kind of position I like.”

This Semi-Slav game followed the opening sequence of moves seen in the Alexander Grischuk-Levon Aronian game in the recent World Candidates Finals.

On the 17th move, instead of choosing to castle, Laznicka faltered with a pawn move. This allowed Wesley some clear initiative as he was planning a kingside offensive. Sensing serious trouble, Laznicka tried to lay a minor check-mating trap on the 22nd move which Wesley side-stepped.

Three moves later, Laznicka made a fatal mistake with a king-move which Wesley was quick to punish. Laznicka resigned when faced with an inevitable loss.

“Usually, players take revenge against me but for a change, I've had my revenge. It obviously feels good because in the game I lost (to Laznicka), I did not play well. Today, I played correctly and perhaps, I've done a favour to Caruana.”

The results: Seventh round: K. Sasikiran (Ind, 4) drew with Fabiano Caruana (Ita, 5.5) in 92 moves; Wesley So (Phi, 4) bt Viktor Laznicka (Cze, 4) in 31 moves; Hou Yifan (Chn, 2) bt Parimarjan Negi (1.5) in 62 moves.

Eighth round pairings: Caruana-Yifan; Negi-Wesley; Laznicka-Sasikiran .

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