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Harikrishna finishes joint second in Hastings

Hastings: GM P. Harikrishna failed to defend his title but had a positive start to the season finishing a creditable tied second in the Hastings International Chess Congress Monday.

Harikrishna trailed the winner GM Peter Heine Nielsen of Denmark by half a point after a victory against GM Glenn Flear of England in the ninth and final round.

Nielsen stamped his authority on the category-12 tournament with an easy draw with GM Keith Arkell of England to emerge sole leader with 6 points.

Arkell shared the second place with Harikishna on 5.5 points.

However, GM K. Sasikiran could only draw the final round game against GM Vitaly Tseshkovsky to tie for sixth place with a below-par 50 per cent score.

It was quite surprising that none of the previous edition’s three joint winners — Harikrishna, Sasikiran and GM Alexei Barsov of Uzbekistan — could make it to the top.

Barsov tied for the fourth spot along with world’ youngest GM Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine on 5 points.

England’s GM Luke McShane stumbled in his final game losing to world women’s championship finalist WGM Alexandra Kosteniuk. McShane’s and Harikrishna’s were the only two decisive games in the final round.

Playing white, Harikrishna opted for less trodden paths in the English opening and ensured a bloody battle by going for the isolated queen pawn very early in the opening.

Flear invited trouble despite being in an apparently harmless position opting for a dubious plan in the middle game. Harikrishna cashed in on the opportunity to launch an offence against the king with a pawn roll.

Having gained the upper hand, Harikrishna went for the trade of queens on the 17th move and forcefully won a pawn a few moves later. Looking desperately for counter play, Flear sacrificed a rook for bishop on his 26th turn but lasted only six more moves.

Sasikiran failed to strike his best form yet again. The Indian has not had a performance as poor as this for quite some time now.

Having won one, drawing six and losing one match in the tournament, the second highest rated player of the country after Viswanathan Anand did try to give his best but Tseshkovsky just managed to wriggle out of difficulties relying on his strong defence.

The opening was a grunfeld defence where Sasikiran, white, managed to get a slight advantage.

Tseshkovsky sacrificed a pawn in the middle game and arrived at a pawn-less rook and pawns endgame that would have theoretically led to a draw.

Sasikiran, however, gave as much trouble as he could to the senior-most competitor in the event but in the end, experience coupled with a thorough understanding of the ending prevailed and the 58-year-old Tseshkovsky drew after 104 moves.

Nielsen had a rather comfortable draw with Arkell in the queens gambit declined game where the former played black. Nielsen had little trouble in neutralising white’s advantage in the queenless middle game and the peace treaty was signed in just 16 moves.

Karjakin drew a 22-move French Winawer game against Barsov while McShane lasted just 38 moves against Kosteniuk.

Results

Keith Arkell (Eng, 5.5) drew Peter Heine Nielsen (Den, 6); P. Harikrishna (5.5) beat Glenn Flear (Eng, 4); Sergey Karjakin (Ukr, 5) drew Alexei Barsov (Uzb, 5); K. Sasikiran (4.5) drew Vitaly Tseshkovsky (Rus, 2); Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus, 3) beat Luke McShane (Eng, 4.5).

Final standings

1. Nielsen 6; 2-3. Harikrishna, Arkell 5.5 each; 4-5. Barsov, Karjakin 5 each; 6-7. McShane, Sasikiran 4.5 each; 8. Flear 4; 9. Kosteniuk 3; 10. Tseshkovsky 2.

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