In the space of 48 hours, Swayams Mishra’s prospects have turned from an innocuous aspirant to a serious title-contender in the Gurgaon Grandmasters International Open chess tournament.

The Cuttack-based 21-year-old International Master recorded one of the most important victories of his career when he toppled third-seeded Russian GM Alexander Evdokimov in 41 moves to go into Wednesday’s final round as one of the two leaders at 7.5 points.

Title-deciding clash

The 12th seed, who became part of the leader group following his victory over B.S. Shivananda on Monday, will play white against joint leader and sixth seed Georgian GM Tornike Sanikidze in what could well be the title-deciding clash.

Sanikidze stayed in the lead after ending Sahaj Grover’s unbeaten run in 30 moves.

Swayams’ advanced central-pawns played a decisive role against Evdokimov. So frustrated was the Russian that he gave up a knight to break free on the 30th move, though without much relief. Swayams cleverly ensured that Evdokimov’s ambitious rook was soon out of play and offered a knight sacrifice to threaten the ‘queening’ of his advanced pawn. Evdokimov saw the inevitable and resigned.

Paying the penalty

On the adjacent board, Grover paid the penalty for ignoring the safety of his king and initiating a premature offence on the queenside.

Sanikidze prevented Grover from ‘castling’ and soon attacked his defenceless king. Grover fell for the ‘bait’ of a bishop and resigned when faced with the prospects of a quick checkmate.

Five Indians were part of the eight-player pack at seven points. Prasanna Rao had his moments in the 92-move drawn encounter against top-seeded Ukrainian Martyn Kravtsiv. Another overnight leader Vikramaditya Kulkarni and P. Shyamnikhil signed peace after 40 moves.

S. Nitin turned the tables on 11th seed Ukrainian GM Eldar Gasanov to stay half a point behind the leaders.

Similarly, S. Ravi Teja won with black against Uzbek Ulugbek Tillyaev and matched Nitin’s tally.

The results (ninth round): Prasanna Rao (7) drew with Martyn Kravtsiv (Ukr, 7); Swayams Mishra (7.5) bt Alexander Evdokimov (Rus, 6.5); Tornike Sanikidze (Geo, 7.5) bt Sahaj Grover (6.5); Vikramaditya Kulkarni (6.5) drew with P. Shyamnikhil (6.5); M. Kunal (6) lost to Oliver Barbosa (7); P. Karthikeyan (6.5) drew with John Paul Gomez (Phi, 6.5); Eldar Gasanov (Ukr, 6) lost to S. Nitin (7); Akmal Faizulaev (Uzb, 6.5) drew with N. Srinath (6.5); Ulugbek Tillyaev (Uzb, 6) lost to S. Ravi Teja (7); Raset Ziatdinov (USA, 7) bt Deepthamsh Reddy (6); V. Karthik (7) bt Sameer Kathmale (6).

Final round (top-five pairings): Swayams-Sanikidze; Kravtsiv-Kulkarni; Nitin-Barbosa; Prasanna-Karthik; Ravi-Ziatdinov.

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