Commonwealth Chess: Three-way lead promises exciting finale; Abhijeet, Narayanan, Aravindh lead

Abhijeet Gupta played out a draw with Swapnil Dhopade to climb to 6.5 points and join the triumphant duo of second seed S. L. Narayanan and third seed Aravindh Chithambaram.

Saturday’s top-board clash involving overnight leader Abhijeet Gupta and Swapnil Dhopade ended in a 144-move draw.   -  GETTY IMAGES

In keeping with the expectations, the eighth and penultimate round of the Commonwealth chess championship provided plenty of thrills and left three leaders promising an exciting finale.

Saturday’s top-board clash involving overnight leader Abhijeet Gupta and Swapnil Dhopade ended in a 144-move draw. The draw was agreed after the last 50 moves were made without involving a pawn-move.

This energy-sapping game, lasting five hours, raised top seed Abhijeet’s tally to 6.5 points and saw him join the triumphant duo of second seed S. L. Narayanan and third seed Aravindh Chithambaram.

Narayanan overpowered Deepan Chakkravarthy in 60 moves and Aravindh checkmated former champion M. R. Lalit Babu in 44 moves following a well-calculated finishing touch. In the final round, Narayanan plays white against Aravindh and Abhijeet will be sitting behind the white pieces facing Arjun Erigaisi, who reached six points after beating Debashis Das.

For the women’s title, Divya Deshmukh, R. Vaishali (5.5 each), defending champion Tania Sachdev and V. Varshini (5 each) stay in the title-hunt. On Sunday, Lalit Babu plays Divya, Vaishali meets Abhijit Kunte and Varshini faces Tania.

The results:

Eighth round: Swapnil Dhopade (6) drew with Abhijeet Gupta (6.5); Deepan Chakkraborty (5.5) lost to S. L. Narayanan (6.5); Aravindh Chithambaram (6.5) bt M. R. Lalit Babu (5.5); Arjun Erigaisi (6) bt Debashis Das (5.5); Tania Sachdev (5) lost to P. Iniyan (5); Swayams Mishra (5) drew with P. Karthikeyan (5); C. R. G. Krishna (5) drew with Suyog Wagh (5); Abhijit Kunte (5.5) bt M. Mahalakshmi (4.5); Niranjan Navalgund (5.5) bt R. R. Laxman (4.5); Divya Deshmukh (5.5) bt Aaryan Varshney (4.5); P. Saravana Krishna (5.5) bt S. Nitin (4.5); Shantanu Bhambure (5.5) bt Bhakti Kulkarni (4.5); Sanskriti Goyal (4.5) lost to R. Vaishali (5.5).