Intense battles produced decisive results on the top three boards, involving five overnight leaders, left top seed and worthy champion Arjun Erigaisi leading an Indian sweep of the podium in the 19th Delhi International Open chess tournament here on Tuesday.
Following a three-way tie at 8.5 points from 10 rounds, involving D. Gukesh and Harsha Bharathakoti, Arjun walked away with the winner’s share of ₹4 lakh and a glittering trophy.
REPORT - NINTH ROUND
For the second time this month, 15-year-old sixth seed Gukesh finished runner-up to Arjun, 18, and collected ₹3.50 lakh. On March 3, Arjun and Gukesh took the top two spots in the National championship in Kanpur. Harsha, seeded 14, was rewarded for his gallant display with the third-prize of ₹3 lakh.
Arjun ended the spirited resistance of the 2018 National junior champion Karthik Venkataraman in 58 moves to decide the title-race. During a gripping battle, Arjun twice thought he had messed up a possible victory but Karthik faltered decisively with a queenside pawn-push. Arjun seized his chance and the sustained pressure cracked Karthik’s defence.
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Continuing his amazing run, Arjun collected his fourth title since November last year. He won the rapid title in the Tata Steel event in Kolkata, the Challengers section of Tata Steel tournament in Wijk Aan Zee in January, and the National championship in Kanpur earlier this month.
‘Icing on the cake’
“More than the title, I was playing the last round for a win to gain as many rating points,” revealed Arjun and added, “I was keen to make up for the loss of five rating points in the recent Bangladesh league. I would have been happy to finish even 10th or 11th if that meant gaining at least six rating points. Now this title is an icing on the cake!”
Moments before Arjun won, Gukesh overpowered former champion Abhijit Gupta, also in 58 moves, to be the first one to reach 8.5 points. Gukesh’s timely trade of rook for a bishop hastened the end as his two connected passed pawns on the queen’s side marched on before Abhijit decided to give up. However, Arjun’s victory pushed Gukesh to second spot.
“Beating a player like Abhijeet (Gupta) with black pieces is never easy,” said Gukesh about the final round and continued, “I knew I had to win to have any chance of winning the title. But Arjun played so consistently well in this tournament and deserves to become the champion.”
Harsha’s extra-pawn proved decisive against S. P. Sethuraman in 71 moves and the 22-year-old’s unbeaten campaign ended with his seventh victory. “This is my best performance in such a strong field,” said an elated Harsha who scored 3.5 points from the last four rounds for a splendid finish.
- Abhijeet Gupta (7.5) lost to D. Gukesh (8.5);
- S. P. Sethuraman (7.5) lost to Harsha Bharathakoti (7.5);
- Arjun Erigaisi (8.5) bt Karthik Venkataraman (7);
- Himal Gusain (7.5) drew with M. R. Lalit Babu (7);
- Arash Tahbaz (Iri, 7) lost to Ortik Nigmatov (Uzb, 8);
- P. Iniyan (7) drew with Neelash Saha (7.5);
- Shail Dey (6.5) lost to Neuris Delgado Ramirez (Par, 7.5);
- Aradhya Garg (6.5) lost to Mahdi Gholami Orimi (Iri, 7.5).
- 1. Arjun (₹4 lakh),
- 2. Gukesh (₹3.50 lakh),
- 3. Harsha (₹3.00 lakh);
- 4. Nigamatov (₹2.50 lakh),
- 5. Sethuraman (₹2.00 lakh),
- 6. Ramirez (₹1.50 lakh),
- 7. Lalit (₹1.00 lakh),
- 8. Abhijeet (₹80,000),
- 9. Neelash (₹60,000),
- 10. Orimi (₹50,000).