Hastings: On a disappointing day for India, Grandmasters K. Sasikiran and P. Harikrishna suffered shock defeats in the eighth and penultimate round of the 65th Hastings International Chess Congress Sunday.
Sasikiran went down to Grandmaster Luke McShane of England while Harikrishna lost to second seed GM Peter Heine Nielsen of Denmark, who regained the sole lead after his second win on the trot.
Nielsen (5.5 points) is followed by GM Keith Arkell of England who is half a point behind. GM Alexei Barsov of Uzbekistan, world’s youngest GM Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine, McShane and Harikrishna share the third position with 4.5 points each.
Sasikiran slumped to joint seventh along with English GM Glenn Flear on four points.
Playing black against McShane, Sasikiran faced a closed set up after opening with the Sicilian Defence.
Knowing the Englishman’s expertise in this particular opening, Sasikiran apparently came well-armed and achieved a dynamic balance in the middle game quite easily.
However, Sasikiran’s form betrayed once again as McShane went for a direct attack against the king, guiding all his pieces to kingside and then opening up the position with a thematic pawn roll. Up against an irresistible attack, the Indian fell prey to simple mating bait laid by McShane. The game lasted just 36 moves.
Harikrishna, playing black, was up against a Catalan opening by Nielsen. The opening is Harikrishna’s strength, but, surprisingly, it let him down against the Dane.
Nielsen got a tangible advantage and struck in the centre in the early middle game.
A nice combination Nielsen on the 15th move netted him a pawn by force and Harikrishna’s pieces were confined to defending thereon. Nielsen forced a series of exchanges that took the game to a queen and knight endgame.
The extra pawn came in handy in final position as Nielsen marched it to seventh rank without much ado and registered a smooth victory in 59 moves.
In another tight match, 12-year-old Karjakin outsmarted the senior-most competitor in fray, GM Vitaly Tseshkovsky of Russia.
In the initial stages, the 58-year-old Tseshkovsky dominated the board with imaginative manoeuvres but as the game progressed, Karjakin proved his mettle with a strike on the king’s wing.
The Russian came under pressure as Karjakin put his knight in a threatening central position. On the 31st move, Tseshkovsky sacrificed a pawn for an elusive attack and lost another pawn a few moves later.
The rest was easy for Karjakin as he wrapped things up in 41 moves.