The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indians keep to steady path

Bled: While Surya Shekhar Ganguly became the country’s eighth Grandmaster (briefly reported in these columns Friday) following an easy draw with Grandmaster Iosef Dorfman in the 12th round of 35th Chess Olympiad here, 24th seeds India held 11th seed France to draw in the men’s draw. The Indians drew all their boards to take their tally to 28 points.

The Indian women defeated Germany 2-1 to move to joint tenth position on 21.5 points with two more rounds remaining.

Top seeds Russia with 34.5 points, continued to dominate in the men’s section and defeated Croatia 2.5-1.5 to maintain their two-point lead over nearest rivals Hungary.

Ninth seed Armenia provided the shocker of the day as they defeated third seeds Ukraine 3-1 to jump to sole third position on 30 points.

Defending champions China eventually caught up with leaders Georgia in the women’s section. Georgia suffered their second successive defeat, going down to Vietnam 1-2, while the China drew 1.5-1.5 with Armenia.

Both China and Georgia have 25.5 points apiece and are followed closely by Russia on 25 points.

Surya achieved his third and final GM norm quite effortlessly. Playing white against Dorfman on the second board after Indian think-tank rested GM P. Harikrishna, Surya played it safe with the white pieces and employed the Rossolimo Variation against Sicilian Defence. The draw was agreed to in just 12 moves at Surya’s behest when the position was just level.

Surya joined the elite group of seven Grandmasters in the country so far — Viswanathan Anand, Dibyendu Barua, Pravin Thipsay, Abhijit Kunte, Krishnan Sasikiran, Pendalya Harikrishna and Koneru Humpy.

Highly regarded GM Jonathan Speelman was all praise for young Surya who had drawn with him in the previous round. “He is a potential Super Grandmaster, very solid and sharp on the counter-attack,” said Speelman.

On the top board Sasikiran drew with Etienne Bacrot with black pieces. The bayonet attack against Sasikiran’s king’s Indian defence did not yield much to Bacrot as he might have desired and the position was virtually closed when Bacrot proposed the draw in the middle game after just 25 moves.

After consulting with the team captain and trainer GM Evgeny Vladimirov, Sasikiran accepted the proposal. “It was the kind of position I like but white had a safe position and perhaps the team captain’s decision was wise,” Sasikiran said after the game.

Kunte was also involved in a none-too-eventful battle against Andrei Sokolov. Playing black Kunte showcased his knowledge of the Italian game and went for an early pawn sacrifice variation that gave him ample counter play as the middle game surfaced.

Quickly realising that not all was well in his position, Sokolov, a former world championship Candidate, opted for a safe path and went for equality. The game was over after just 14 moves.

Former national champion GM Pravin Thipsay was involved in a tactical game against Christian Bauer with white pieces but in the endgame the position fizzled out to a draw in 30 moves.

Russia rested Garri Kasparov but still proved good enough against Croatia. On the second board GM Alexander Morozevich scored an emphatic victory over Ognjen Cvitan using the Sicilian Sozin attack to perfection in just 29 moves while on the fourth board GM Sergei Rublevski coasted to a smooth victory in just 25 moves over Sulava Nenad.

Robert Zelcic, who beat Peter Svidler on the third board and Zdenko Kozul, who drew former world champion Alexander Khalifman on the top board, scored the points for Croatia.

The Indian women had a good day in office. On the top board WGM S. Vijayalakshmi misplayed a won against Kachiani- Gersinka Ketino who played black. Playing intelligently in the middle game, Vijayalakshmi won a piece for effectively no counter play but a few blunders in the final stages of the game cost her dearly. In a picturesque finale, Ketino got the draw by stalemate on board in 124 moves.

On the second board, S. Meenakshi drew WGM Elizabeth Paehtz while WIM Aarthie Ramaswamy defeated WGM Borulya Ekaterina to give India a good victory. In the next round, the Indian men will play Switzerland, while the women will battle it out against the US.

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