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Ramesh keeps half-point lead
- National B chess

Nagpur: Former British Open champion and International Master R. B. Ramesh consolidated his slender half-point lead after drawing his ninth round game with IM Rahul Shetty in the National B chess championship here on Tuesday.

Ramesh took his tally to 8 points after the draw and is now a clear favourite for the title.

IM Sriram Jha propelled himself to the joint second place by scoring an easy win over IM Deepan Chakraborty. Both Jha and Shetty have 7.5 points apiece.

Top seeded GM Koneru Humpy overcame the setbacks of the previous two rounds to score a fine victory over Prathamesh Mokal and now occupies the third spot jointly with IM S. Satyapragyan, IM N. K. Mishra, M. R. Venkatesh and surprise entrant Pankaj Joshi who upset double GM norm holder D. V. Prasad in a Sicilian defence game with black pieces.

With only five rounds remaining, the players on the top 10-boards were more interested in securing one of the 12-available qualifying berths for the national A championship and preferred to play it safe by agreeing to easy draws. Consequently, six boards out of top 10 ended in draws.

A big pack of 22 players including Chakraborty, B. S. Shivanandan, Vikramjit Singh, K. V. Shantaram, Roktim Bandopadhyay, Rishipal Singh, C. S. Gokhale and V. Hariharan were occupying the fourth spot with 6.5 points, keeping alive their hopes for qualification.

Shetty and Ramesh agreed to a draw in just 12 moves in a game of caro kann defence. But it was an intense game on the second board which pitted former Asian junior champion Chakravarthy and Jha.

Chakraborty tried to steer Sriram into unknown territories by opting for scotch opening with colours reversed. However, Chakraborty was not able to find a correct plan as a result of which he landed in a minus position at the opening stage itself. Jha created further weaknesses in the enemy camp by exposing the white king and worked his way excellently in the ensuing endgame with rooks and opposite colour bishops. Chakraborty resigned when he could not avert heavy material loss.

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