Chess Olympiad: Indian men let United States off the hook

Krishnan SasikiranISTANBUL, Turkey: Grandmaster Krishnan Sasikiran slipped in the final stages as India settled for a draw despite being at the threshold of victory against the USA in the fourth round of the 40th Chess Olympiad here.

Sasikiran missed out on a draw against world number seven Hikaru Nakamura towards the dying stages of the first time control which would have meant an excellent victory for the 13th seeded Indians against fifth seed opponents.

The advantage was made possible by former world junior champion P Harikrishna who pulled off a sensational victory against former world championship finalist Gata Kamsky on the second board.

Young Grandmasters Parimarjan Negi and Abhijeet Gupta put in their effort to draw with Alexander Onsichuk and Varuzhan Akobian respectively before the team settled at 2-2 after being close to victory.

The draw proved costly as Indians slipped to joint fifth with seven points out of a possible eight. The lead is now shared by top seed Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Hungary who all have a perfect eight points following four victories in as many matches.

For each match win here, two points are awarded while a draw entitles one point apiece to the teams involved.

While the men pitched in and the draw was still a good result, the sixth-seeded Indian eves fumbled big time and could only manage a 2-2 draw against the 19th seeded Serbian women in the women’s Olympiad being held simultaneously.

International Master Tania Sachdev saved the blushes on an otherwise bad day as Eesha Karavade lost to lower rated Maria Manakova while D Harika survived some anxious moments before holding out a draw with Natasa Bojkovic on the top board. . The hopes were pinned on the fourth board wherein Mary Ann Gomes was facing a much lower-rated Ana Benderac but here too the game petered out to a draw leaving the Serbian eves something to smile about.

Russia and France emerged as the early leaders in this section with a perfect score while Indian eves stand joint third now along with the likes of China, Georgia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Greece and Serbia.

Harikrishna was the pick of the Indians as the onus was on him to deliver the goods with white pieces. The Hyderabad-lad showed his fantastic endgame skills to outwit Kamsky from a Ruy Lopez game. Up against a checkmate web, the American resigned on the 41st move.

Sasikiran’s position was close to a draw but he simply blundered on the 37th move to fall in a mating net. A few correct moves would have ensured the draw as the post game analysis proved.

Parimarjan Negi played solidly and even pressed for sometime before signing peace with Onischuk while Abhijeet Gupta could not get much as white out of a Catalan opening against Akobian and drew in just 28 moves.

Among the women, Tania was the only saving grace as she showed aggression and precision to win her fourth game on the trot here. Tania won two pieces for a rook and made no mistakes in converting her material advantage in to a full point in 48 moves. -PTI

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