Going by the form of the players, Friday offered some key contests whose results could well have a say in the making of the champion in the Jain 51st National chess championship here.
With the first six players from the standings, involved on the top three boards, fierce battles were expected. Notwithstanding the mediocre quality of play, owing to the large number of errors, decisive games provided the thrills in the 10th round.
Second seed K. Sasikiran displaced M. R. Lalith Babu from the top of the heap after the youngster overlooked the loss of a knight and straightaway resigned on the 31st move.
Adhiban joined Lalith in the second spot place after inflicting the competition’s first defeat on Deepan Chakkravarthy while a persistent M. S. Thej Kumar held the fourth spot after capitalising from an oversight from Ashwin Jayaram and unleashed a tactical stroke to gain a bishop, leaving his baffled rival no option but to resign in just 26 moves.
With three rounds to go, Sasikiran has once again emerged as the strongest contender for the title.
“It feels good to bounce back from a defeat (to Adhiban on Thursday),” said Sasikiran, the 14-player field’s oldest contestant who turns 33 next month.
“Though I thought I was pressing hard (for victory), the post-match analysis made me realise that it was Lalith who was trying to create opportunities to win. I guess, the truth lay somewhere in between,” assessed Sasikiran about the 31-move encounter arising out of the opening lines of Bogo Indian.
The anti-climax to this much-anticipated clash was soon followed by a similar finish to the Ashwin-Thej battle. Just when Thej was improving his position in the advanced variation of Carokann, an aggressive Ashwin overlooked the loss of bishop and knight for a rook that would have led to an instant checkmate. Immediately on losing the bishop, Ashwin gave up and left Thej to savour his fifth victory.
The game between a previously-unbeaten Deepan and an upbeat Adhiban produced a more even contest.
Adhiban seized the advantage on the 26th move by gaining a kingside pawn following a three-move tactic.
In the resultant queen-pawn endgame, Adhiban was cruising to victory by riding on his advanced pawns when he hastened the end by forcing the exchange of queens. Deepan saw the inevitable and resigned.
10th round: K. Sasikiran (8) bt M. R. Lalith Babu (7.5); Deepan Chakkravarthy (6) lost to B. Adhiban (7.5); Ashwin Jayaram (5) lost to M. S. Thej Kumar (7); Debashis Das (4.5) drew with Parimarjan Negi (4); G. Akash (2.5) drew with Vishnu Prasanna (4.5); G. A. Stany (4) bt P. Shyamnikhil (3.5); Akshat Khamparia (3) lost to K. Ratnakaran (3).
11th round pairings: Lalith-Deepan; Thej-Sasikiran; Adhiban-Debashis; Ratnakaran-Ashwin; Negi-Akash; Vishnu-Stany; Shyamnikhil-Akshat.