The serene environs of the Jain hills here is just right to play chess and given the seriousness with which Sasikiran takes his craft, no wonder he looks keen to make the most of the opportunity.

So far in the Jain 51st National chess championship, Sasikiran has been in marauding form. The ever-so-determined Sasikiran is clearly armed with an upbeat approach that has a lot of do with the confidence he gained from being part of Viswanathan Anand’s team of ‘seconds’ in the recent World championship match. No wonder, he looks hungry not only to win every game but also win it in style.

Sasikiran, the oldest player in the fray, won for the sixth time in seven games on Tuesday but was not too pleased after nailing Debashis Das, the latest Grandmaster in the country. Having set such exacting standards for self, Sasikiran often goes back dissatisfied with the execution of his plans, irrespective of the result.

“Obviously the stint with Anand is helping me a great deal here. No doubt, getting to know first-hand how big players prepare has been a great learning experience. But it is also important to remember them in time to gain the most from any position,” said Sasikiran after he almost let Debashis elude his grasp in their 37-move game that followed the opening lines of Catalan mainline.

Matching steps with Sasikiran on way to his sixth victory was Lalith Babu. He too was part of a Catalan game against G.A. Stany and let the control slip a bit before tightening the grip in 44 moves.

Playing his first round-robin event, Lalith remained modest of his stupendous run so far. “Unlike other players, I am very lucky with my sequence of pairings. I play with white pieces against higher rated players whom I will face after an interval of a few rounds. So far, things have gone well for me,” said the youngster looking ahead to taking his form through the final six rounds.

Top seed Parimarjan Negi’s wait for his first victory ended when he scored a comfortable 41-move win over K. Ratnakaran in their Sicilian game.

“This past week, I blundered in almost every game except the one against Sasikiran where I think I played very well (and lost). Today, Ratnakaran misplayed the position early and I was comfortable throughout today. He did manage to come up with some desperate tactics and I had to be careful not to let them assume dangerous proportions,” said Negi, now focussed only on salvaging optimum rating points in the remaining six rounds.

In spite of his fifth loss, Ratnakaran retained his spirit and said, “I am playing well here. I am getting into good positions but not finding the way to turn them into victory. I’ll keep trying.” The other decisive result came in favour of National challengers’ champion Thej Kumar, who outwitted defending champion G. Akash in 69 moves to stay on course of an honourable finish.

In the day’s last game to finish, in just under five hours, B. Adhiban drew with Akshat Khamparia in 61 moves.

The results: Seventh round: K. Sasikiran (6.5) bt Debashis Das (2.5); M.R. Lalith Babu (6.5) bt G.A. Stany (2); B. Adhiban (5.5) drew with Akshat Khamparia (2); Deepan Chakkravarthy (5) drew with Ashwin Jayaram (4); Thej Kumar (4.5) bt G. Akash (1); Parimarjan Negi (3) bt K. Ratnakaran (1); P. Shyamnikhil (2.5) drew with V. Vishnu Prasanna (3).

Eighth round pairings: Debashis-Vishnu; Negi-Shyamnikhil; Akash-Ratnakaran; Stany-Thej; Akshat-Lalith; Ashwin-Adhiban; Sasikiran-Deepan.

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