Rakesh Rao

GHAZIABAD: Just when the top-board battle seemed headed for a draw, Parimarjan Negi discovered a trick just in time for a clinical victory over fellow Grandmaster Sriram Jha and emerged as the leader with 6.5 points from seven rounds of the Parsvnath Commonwealth chess championship at the Clarks Inn, Pacific Mall, here.

Negi's 44-move triumph with black pieces came after the other overnight leader Russian Pavel Maletin drew with his top-seeded compatriot Alexey Dreev in 31 moves. Joining Maletin at six points were Abhijeet Gupta, R. R. Laxman, Azerbaijan's Eltaj Safarli and Ukraine's Martyn Kravtsiv.

With four rounds to go, it did not come as a surprise when seven out of the top-10 boards provided decisive verdicts. Negi, the only one among the leading names to win with black, came up with a good defensive manoeuvre when Jha managed to plant his rooks on the seventh rank in their battle following the English Opening.

Having gained two pawns, Negi gave up one of the doubled-pawns and found a winning continuation following some precise king moves in an ending involving a bishop each on opposite-colour squares. Jha, short of time to find a way out of trouble, gave up after Negi's king advanced menacingly. Negi's sixth consecutive victory also ended Jha's undefeated streak.

Impressive winner

From those sharing the second spot, Laxman was an impressive winner against fourth seeded Russian Dmitry Kokarev, rated 136 points higher at 2612.

The man from Integral Coach Factory cleverly outplayed Kokarev in a positional battle lasting 47 moves. Laxman next plays Abhijeet Gupta.

Another Indian GM Tejas Bakre did well to hold sixth seeded Russian Dmitry Bocharov in 39 moves but young K. Priyadarshan's unbeaten run against the GMs came to an end after facing Uzbekistan's Saidali Iuldachev.

The results (Indians unless stated): Seventh round: Sriram Jha (5.5) lost to Parimarjan Negi (6.5); Alexey Dreev (Rus, 5.5) drew with Pavel Maletin (Rus, 6); Martyn Kravtsiv (Ukr, 6) bt Anton Kovalyov (Arg, 5); R. R. Laxman (6) bt Dmitry Kokarev (Rus, 5); Eltaj Safarli (Aze, 6) bt M. R. Lalith Babu (5); Tejas Bakre (5.5) drew with Dmitry Bocharov (Rus, 5.5); Abhijeet Gupta (6) bt Enrique Paciencia (Sin, 5); Saidali Iuldachev (Uzb, 5.5) bt K. Priyadharshan (5); Pablo Lafuente (Arg, 5.5) bt Swayams Mishra (4.5); Abhijit Kunte (5) drew with Shyam Sundar (5); K. Rathnakaran (5.5) bt B. Adhiban (4.5); Abhishek Das (5.5) bt Marat Dzhumaev (Uzb, 4.5).

D. Harika (5.5) bt Shyam Nikhil (4.5); Aswin Jayaram (5) drew with S. Nitin (5); G. A. Stany (5) drew with Swapnil Dhopade (5); Bitan Banerjee (5) drew with M. R. Venkatesh (5); Niaz Murshed (Ban, 5) drew with Ramnath Bhuvanesh (5); Prasanna Rao (5.5) bt Anwesh Upadhyaya (4.5).

Sahaj Grover (5) drew with Varugeese Koshy (5); P. Konguvel (5) drew with Gurpreet Pal Singh (5); Debashis Das (5) drew with Sayantan Das (5); V. A. V. Rajesh (5) drew with Tania Sachdev (5); Hemant Sharma (4.5) lost to Rustam Khusnutdinov (Kaz, 5).

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