Rakesh Rao

NAGPUR: Three Grandmasters at the top, two rounds to go and just one point of interest in the Commonwealth chess championship. On Monday, who will be holding the exquisite silver trophy that comes with the title?

On Saturday, a victorious Nigel Short joined overnight leaders Surya Shekhar Ganguly and Enamul Hossain in the leaders’ group at 7.5 points from nine rounds while a pack comprising R. R. Laxman, Vidit Gujarati, S. Arun Prasad and Neelotpal Das and M.R. Venkatesh moved to seven points. For the rest, including 16 players at 6.5 points, the title is out of reach.

Exciting

In terms of excitement, there was not much on the leading boards. Ganguly and Hossain drew in just 20 moves on the top board with the Indian forcing a draw through perpetual checks after trying in vain to win by sacrificing pieces to expose the Bangladeshi’s castled white king.

After a poor 3.5 points from five rounds, Short scored his fourth successive victory to get back his allotted place on the top board ahead of 10th round on Sunday.

This over-the-hill British GM was not required to draw from his reserve to tame B.T. Murali Krishnan in 38 moves.

It was an anticipated victory within expected time.

Grandmaster in-waiting S. Arun Prasad and Parimarjan Negi battled for 34 moves before agreeing to sign peace.

Prasad did manage to surprise Negi with his preparation in the opening phase but could not enlarge the miniscule advantage.

In fact, on the top-eight boards, Laxman was the only other winner after Short.

Laxman sacrificed his rook for a knight to leave International Master in-waiting Arghyadip Das defenceless in an interesting battle lasting 43 moves.

Unbeaten run

Creditably, 16-year-old Chennai-boy M. Shyam Sundar maintained his unbeaten run by holding third seeded Bangladesh’s GM Ziaur Rahman.

Having drawn with five GMs and one IM, Shyam took his tally to six points.

It was also a day for five players, including two sub-juniors, met the stipulations for gaining an International Master norm.

National under-13 champion Vidit Gujarati continued his stupendous run by upstaging former leader Deep Sengupta for his second IM norm.

Madurai’s youngster K. Priyadarshan collected his first norm by agreeing to a six-move draw with veteran P. D. S. Girinath.

Akshat Khamparia’s wait for his maiden norm ended when he defeated double GM-norm holder S. Kidambi. Rahul Sangma, the college-student who stunned Short earlier in the week, defeated M. Vinay Kumar for the norm while T. Purushothaman made it by beating Sri Lanka’s G.C. Annurudha.

The results (Ninth round): Enamul Hossain (Ban, 7.5) drew with Surya Shekhar Ganguly (7.5); B.T. Murali Krishnan (6.5) lost to Nigel Short (Eng, 7.5).

S. Arun Prasad (7) drew with Parimarjan Negi (6.5); Abhijit Kunte (6.5) drew with Aswin Jayaram (6.5).

R.R. Laxman (7) bt Arghyadip Das (6); Niaz Murshed (Ban, 6.5) drew with Dibyendu Barua (6.5); Deepan Chakkravarthy (6.5) drew with P. Konguvel (6.5).

B. Adhiban (6) lost to Neelotpal Das (7); M.R. Venkatesh (7) bt Suvrajit Saha (6).

Deep Sengupta (6) lost to Vidit Gujarati (7); M.S. Thejkumar (6.5) drew with D.P. Singh (6.5); Saptarshi Roy (6.5) drew with G. Rohit (6.5); Ziaur Rahman (Ban, 6) drew with Shyam Sundar (6); Akshat Khamparia (6.5) bt S. Kidambi (5.5).

S. Nitin (6) drew with S.P. Sethuraman (6); P.D.S. Girinath (6) drew with K. Priyadarshan (6); J. Venkata Ramana (5.5) lost to P. Karthikeyan (6.5).

Sohan Phadke (6) drew with Mas Hafizulhelmi (Mal, 6); Saurabh Kherdekar (5.5) lost to Aleksandar Wohl (Aus, 6.5).

Vikramaditya Kamble (5.5) lost to Pradeep Kumar (6.5); Rahul Sangma (6.5) bt Vinay Kumar (5.5); Magesh Chandran (6) bt Akash Thakur (5).

Ratnakaran (5) lost to Kiran Manisha Mohanty (6); Sriram Jha (5.5) drew with Pankaj Joshi (5.5); Anup Deshmukh (5) lost to Himanshu Sharma (6); Satyapragyan (6) bt Ja Ophoff (RSA, 5).

10th round pairings (top-12): Short-Hossain; Ganguly-Laxman; Vidit-Arun; Neelotpal-Venkatesh; Kunte-Murali; Negi-Karthikeyan; Barua-Roy; Wohl-Deepan; Thejkumar-Sangma; Khamparia-Murshed; Aswin-Pradeep and Konguvel-D. P. Singh.

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