Rakesh Rao

GHAZIABAD: In yet another sterling display of precise endgame technique, second seed Parimarjan Negi overwhelmed fifth-seeded Azerbaijani Grandmaster Eltaj Safarli to maintain his half-point lead after eight rounds of the Parsvnath Commonwealth chess championship at the Clarks Inn, Pacific Mall, here on Saturday.

The 68-move victory raised Negi's tally to 7.5 points and kept him ahead of nearest rival Pavel Maletin. The eighth-seeded Russian defeated Ukraine's Martyn Kravtsiv in 64 moves to reach seven points.

On Sunday, Negi will take on Meltin with whom he drew in the Chigorin memorial tournament last year. Three rounds remain.

Five players — Abhijeet Gupta, R.R. Laxman, Prasanna Rao, Dmitry Bocharov (Russia) and Saidali Iuldachev (Uzbekistan) — are tied for the third spot with 6.5 points.

Complex battle

In a complex battle in Ruy Lopez, Negi and Safarli needed to utilise their time to avoid serious trouble. But once Safarli missed Negi's clever idea in the middle game following some exchange of pieces, he came under tremendous time pressure.

Thereafter, Negi managed to trade his knight and two pawns for a rook. Later, Negi found the right continuation, exchanged the bishops to score his seventh victory.

Before Laxman and Abhijeet signed peace in 85 moves, D. Harika came up with another gritty performance to hold top seed Alexei Dreev in 53 moves. This was Dreev's fourth draw of the competition.

Some of the Indian youngsters hogged the limelight by pulling off some surprise results. Prasanna Rao punished GM Sriram Jha for overlooking the loss of queen to win in 34 moves. Ankit Rajapara drew with third seed Anton Kovalyov in 39 moves while Ramnath Bhuvanesh stunned 11th seed Rustam Khusnutdinov after 28 turns. Bitan Banerjee played well over his rating to hold 16th seed Enamul Hossain in 36 moves.

The results (involving Indians): Eighth round: Parimarjan Negi (7.5) bt Eltaj Safarli (Aze, 6); Pavel Maletin (Rus, 7) bt Martyn Kravtsiv (Ukr, 6); R. R. Laxman (6.5) drew with Abhijeet Gupta (6.5); D. Harika (6) drew with Alexey Dreev (Rus, 6); Dmitry Bocharov (Rus, 6.5) bt K. Rathnakaran (5.5); Pablo Lafuente (Arg, 6) drew with Tejas Bakre (6); Abhishek Das (5.5) lost to Saidali Iuldachev (6.5); Prasanna Rao (6.5) bt Sriram Jha (5.5); Anton Kovalyov (Arg, 5.5) drew with Ankit Rajpara (5.5).

Dmitry Kokarev (Rus, 6) bt G. A. Stany (5); Ramnath Bhuvanesh (6) bt Rustam Khusnutdinov (Kaz, 5); Vaibhav Suri (5) lost to Abhijit Kunte (6); Enamul Hossain (Ban, 5.5) drew with Bitan Banerjee (5.5).

M. R. Lalith Babu (6) bt V. A. V. Rajesh (5); Varugeese Koshy (5) lost to Aswin Jayaram (6); Swapnil Dhopade (6) bt Djakhangir Agaragimov (Aze, 5); M. R. Venkatesh (5) lost to G. V. Sai Krishna (6).

Enrique Paciencia (Sin, 5) lost to Girish Koushik (6); Mehdi Hasan (Ban, 5.5) drew with Niaz Murshed (Ban, 5.5); Anup Deshmukh (5) lost to Sahaj Grover (6).

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