Kozhikode: Grandmaster Koneru Humpy beat IM Sriram Jha to take sole second spot after the 17th round of the 41st national A chess championship here on Monday. GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly had his run of five straight wins halted by S. Satyapragyan but the draw was good enough to keep the Calcuttan on top — 1.5 points clear of Humpy.
With six rounds remaining, a pack of three — top seed GM P. Harikrishna, GM Abhijit Kunte and GM Sandipan Chanda — follows Surya Sekhar and Humpy with 11.5 points each. They are followed by IM Neelotpal Das (10.5), and GM R.B. Ramesh, S. Kidambi and GM Dibyendu Barua (9.5 apiece).
Humpy showed her fighting qualities yet again after Surya Sekhar played out a quick draw with Satyapragyan. Playing with white pieces, Humpy went for the Semi Slav Defence. Jha, who might have hoped for some advantage as the game entered extreme complexities, logically played out the middle game but was in for a surprise as Humpy spotted a weakness in his base rank.
Soon Humpy’s bishops spat fire middle of the board and Jha was forced to part with a piece. The game lasted 41 moves.
Harikrishna continued to make rapid strides towards the leaders, with M.R. Venkatesh being on the receiving end. Harikrishna stuck to the Berlin Defence, the opening that gave him an important victory against Ramesh three rounds ago, and succeeded again.
There was also a fine performance by Ramesh, who was clinical in his quest for victory over T.S. Ravi from the black side of an Alapin Defence. Ravi slipped away in the opening and had Ramesh’s queen against two dominating rooks that did the trick quite easily.