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Kunte, Harikrishna keep lead
- BRITISH CHESS

Edinburgh: Indian GMs P. Harikrishna and Abhijit Kunte maintained their slender half point lead after settling for a draw between themselves in the ninth round of the British chess championship on Thursday.

The Indians have seven points each and their nearest rivals are top-seeded GM Vassilios Kotronias of Cyprus, GM Jonathan Rowson of Scotland, British GM Peter Wells and GM Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh.

A pack of ten is also in the reckoning, with six points each. They are GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly, WGM S. Vijayalakshmi, IM Tejas Bakre, GM Joseph Gallagher of Switzerland, GM Paul Motwani of Scotland, IM Reefat Bin Sattar of Bangladesh, WGM Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan of Georgia and Englishmen IM Daniel Gormally, IM Pert Nicholas and Stewart Haslinger.

The Indians, barring Harikrishna and Kunte, had a tough day. The biggest losers were GM norm aspirant Tejas Bakre and Swati Ghate.

Aspiring for his third GM norm, Tejas went down fighting to Rowson, while Swati fell prey to compatriot IM Neelotpal Das.

Swati, however, completed the formalities of her WGM norm despite the loss and will now look to increase the number of norm games for her benefit.

The GM norm chances of S. Kidambi evaporated after losing to Arakhamia with black pieces to remain on five points, while GM Dibyendu Barua drew with Rafe Martyn of England.

Among the Indian women, only Nisha Mohota managed win, defeating Thomas Nixon of England. Aarthie Ramaswamy drew with Matthew Anderton ,while Esha Karvade lost to Simon Williams of England.

The Petroff Defence by Harikrishna as black prompted Kunte to exchange queens early in the opening and the rest was just a dull affair. The peace treaty was signed on the 23rd move.

Playing black, Tejas opted for his pet Sicilian Classical defence, but was surprised with the Velimirovic attack by Rowson. What followed was a tactical complication with Tejasí king stuck in the centre and he had to lose a pawn to come out of his difficulties. Rowson thwarted any possible counterplay thereafter and clinched the issue in 49 moves.

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