Anand advances, Sasikiran bows out

Bastia (France) Nov. 1. Indians had a mixed day in the pre-quarterfinals when Viswanathan Anand had an easy victory while Krishnan Sasikiran crashed out of the 7th Corsica Masters being played at the Bastia Theatre on Saturday.

Knockouts and Anand seem to go well together. Quick on the draw, Anand grilled his soft opponent, rated 288 Elo points below him in even time. In the second game, he needed a draw and just got what he wanted, not looking for more. For a Saturday, the spectator count was low. With most competing in the Swiss stage of the qualifier which went on past midnight none could head for the theatre.

Anand was too strong for the Croatian grandmaster Miso Cebalo and his margin of 1.5-0.5 could have been larger had he tried in the second game too. He played the second game solidly and accepted a draw from Cebalo on the 27th move to enter the quarterfinals.

In the opening game, Anand picked up two pawns after the opening with the black pieces. The Croat blundered a rook on the 23rd move and it cost him a rook for bishop. Anand spotted it in a flash and in both session, the Indian was the quickest to finish his games.

Anand is a three-time winner of this tournament and is looking for his fourth straight title. In the quarterfinals scheduled for Sunday morning, he plays Joel Lautier with the black pieces in the first game.

Gurevich, who had earlier been a trainer of both Anand and Kasparov had a word of praise for Sasikiran whom he beat 1.5-0.5. He told The Hindu, "I could never equalise in the opening with either colour." Sasikiran underestimated white's advance and got into a mating net in the rooks and minor piece ending to lose in 47 moves with the black pieces.

In his turn with the white pieces, in a must-win situation, Sasikiran put up a reasonable fight before conceding a draw in 70 moves. The extra pawn he had did not matter as it was doubled and he got no pawn breaks in the knight ending.

In the qualifier, Anand beat Leonid Milov (Ukr), drew Pavel Tregubov (Rus), beat Michael Oratovsky (Isr), drew Sergey Tiviakov (Ned), beat George Grigore (Rom), beat Daniel Fridman (Lat), drew Mikhail Gurevich (Bel), drew Levon Aronian (Arm) and drew Van Wely (Ned) in his 6.5/9 score.

The honours list of winners in the Corsica Masters: 1997 Pavel Tregubov (Rus), 1998 Alexander Chernin (Hun), 1999 Vladimir Akopian (Arm), 2000 Viswanathan Anand, 2001 Viswanathan Anand, 2002 Viswanathan Anand.

The pairing for last 16 matches: Cebalo vs Anand, Lautier vs Epishin, Grischuk vs Radjabov, Aronian vs Gelfand, Tkachiev vs Shirov, Van Wely vs Karpov, Gurevich vs Sasikiran, Topalov vs Motylev.

The quarterfinals and semifinals will take place on Sunday and the final on Monday.

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