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Kunte leads India into joint fifth spot

Bled (Slovenia): A smashing win by GM Abhijit Kunte propelled India to victory against Czech Republic and a joint fifth place — along with England and Croatia — after an exciting ninth round of the 35th Chess Olympiad.

The Indian women too had a fine day as they crushed Belarus 2.5-0.5 to be at joint sixth on 17 points.

The round also saw holders and hot favourites Russia succumb to their first defeat in the Olympiad. Defending champions for a decade, Russia went down 2.5-1.5 to second seed Hungary.

But the win did not help the victors take the lead as Russia maintained their top position with 25.5 points from 36 games played so far. Hungary were a close second on 25, while China and Georgia shared the third position on 24 each.

Kunte, a former national champion, took charge of the demolition act from Surya Sekhar Ganguly and led the team to a comfortable 2.5-1.5 victory over their 17th-seeded rivals.

In the women’s section, Georgian supremacy continued with another 3-0 wipe-out of Romania. Georgia has so far tallied 22 points from 27 games and has a three-point lead over defending champions China.

Kunte did outclassed Navara David tactically. Starting off as black on the third board, the opening choice was a Sicilian Paulsen by Kunte and David chalked out complications in the Fianchetto Variations by rolling his king-side pawns pretty early in the middle game.

Looking for some worthwhile counterplay, Kunte gave up his right to castle and entangled David in the sheer complexities of the game with a fantastic pawn thrust in the centre that netted him a rook against a minor piece.

With fewer pawns left on the board, Kunte had to be very precise in his calculations. At one point of time, Kunte was down to last ten seconds on his clock but in the end his determination paid off. The game lasted 57 moves.

The remaining three boards saw Indian players draw but not without bloodshed.

Playing black against GM Zbynek Hracek on the top board, GM K. Sasikiran opened with the Sicilia Nazdorf and had little trouble in equalising with black pieces.

Looking for ways to complicate matters, Sasikiran embarked on a rather dubious plan that troubled him a little in the resulting middle game. Hracek, however, could not devise the best attacking plan and had to be content with a draw after 43 moves.

On the second board, GM P. Harkrishan continued with his solid play and drew with higher rated GM Vlastimil Babula with white pieces in 26 moves.

IM R.B. Ramesh tried hard on the fourth board with white pieces. Playing against Tomas Oral, he faced the Sicilian Paulsen and got a slight advantage after the opening.

Tomas sacrificed a pawn in the middle game and exchanged a handful of pieces to land in a rook and pawns endgame with sufficient drawing chances.

The women displayed top form on the first two boards where WGM S. Vijayalakshmi and younger sister S. Meenakshi scored over Lagvilava Genrieta and WIM Tetenkina Irina, respectively. Meenakshi won in just 25 moves.

On the third board, Swati Ghate missed some winning chances and had to settle for a draw against WIM Popova Natalija who played black.

In the next round, the Indian men will take on England, while the Women face Russia.

IMPORTANT RESULTS (Rd IX)

Men: Hun (25) bt Rus (25.5) 2.5-1.5; Chn (24) bt Svk (22.5) 2.5-1.5; Bos (23.5) bt Geo (22.5) 2.5-1.5; Cze (22.5) lost to Ind (23) 1.5-2.5; Pol (22.5) drew Ger (22.5) 2-2; Ned (22.5) drew Arm (22) 2-2; Blr (21) lost to England (23) 1-3; Fra (22) bt Aze (21.5) 2.5-1.5; Isr (22) bt Rom (21) 2.5-1.5; Lit (20) lost to Cro (23) 0.5-3.5; Bul (19.5) lost to Ukr (22.5) 0.5-3.5; Cub (20) lost to Swe (22) 1-3; Mol (20) lost to Den (21.5) 1-3; US (21) bt Sco (20) 2.5-1.5; Kaz (21.5) bt Uzb (19.5) 3-1; Arg (19.5) lost to Gre (21.5) 1-3.

Women: Romania (16) lost to Geo (22) 0-3; Pol (17) drew US (18.5) 1.5-1.5; Chn (19) bt Vie (16.5) 2.5-0.5; Bul (16.5) lost to Rus (18.5) 1-2; Ukr (16.5) drew Ger (16.5) 1.5-1.5; Cze (15) lost to Hun (17.5) 0.5-2.5; Yug (16.5) bt Aze (15.5) 2-1; Fra (16.5) bt Mon (15.5) 2-1; Blr (15) lost to Ind 0.5-2.5; Kaz (16.5) bt Cub (15.5) 2-1.

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