Asian champion Parimarjan Negi lost to the former Russian champion Evgeny Alekseev in the third round of the AICF-AAI Cup category-18 chess tournament at the AAI Officers Institute, Safdarjung Airport, on Sunday.

While Negi lost his way after a bad start, the Indian challenge suffered a further blow as K. Sasikiran mishandled a good position to lose to Anton Korobov of Ukraine. The only saving grace for the host was the former World junor champion Abhijeet Gupta playing out a draw against the top seed Radoslav Wojtaszek of Poland.

Negi made an error while trying to wrest the initiative with black pieces in the Sicilian Defence, and the Russian thought for a long time to find the right moves to glide smoothly in unchartered territory.

The Indian Grandmaster lost a pawn early in the game, and tried to defend a difficult position in the end game after the queens were exchanged. Interestingly, both players were in time trouble, but Alekseev handled it well as his position was better, and pulled through to victory in 55 moves.

Sasikiran lost with white pieces against Korobov in Queen’s Indian defence. He brought pressure on his opponent by handling the middle game well, and had in fact looked headed for a victory. However, Korobov came up with the counter punches nicely from a dangerous position to swing the balance around.

Sasikiran complicated his position as he ran into time trouble, and needed to make 12 moves at one stage in three minutes. Korobov invaded with the queen and won the game in 47 moves.

Abhijeet Gupta also looked to be fighting a lost cause as he mishandled the Benoni opening with white pieces, but a tactical revival brought him back into the game against Wojtaszek.

Though running short of time, Gupta played with imagination to ensure a draw, after both the players had missed the winning lines.

With seven more rounds to go in the Rs.12 lakh tournament, played on a double round-robin league format, a lot of fireworks can still be expected and the equations can change in favour of the Indian camp.

The results (third round): Abhijeet Gupta 1.5 drew with Radoslav Wojtaszek (Pol) 2; Evgeny Alekseev (Rus) 1.5 bt Parimarjan Negi 1.5; K. Sasikiran 0.5 lost to Anton Korobov (Ukr) 2.

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