Delhi International Open: Favourites stumble in opening round

Sixth seed S. L. Narayanan, Uzbekistan’s veteran Marat Dzhumaev, Egypt’s Hesham Abdelrahman, International Master Atanu Lahiri, Anup Deshmukh, Polish Woman Grandmaster Katarzyna Toma were among those who failed to get off to winning starts.

Despite being better placed, S.L. Narayanan ran into a resolute veteran Santosh Kumar Sinha and settled for a 60-move draw.   -  y. b. sarangi

Most of the results followed a predictable course, but some Grandmasters and International Masters encountered unexpected road blocks in the opening round of the 15th Delhi International Open chess tournament here on Monday.

As is expected in a Swiss League format, where the top-half of the draw plays the bottom-half, a large number of favourites duly won. But the newsmakers were those who stole the thunder by punching above their weight.

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Sixth seed S. L. Narayanan, Uzbekistan’s veteran Marat Dzhumaev, Egypt’s Hesham Abdelrahman, International Master Atanu Lahiri, Anup Deshmukh, Polish Woman Grandmaster Katarzyna Toma were among those who failed to get off to winning starts.

Narayanan ran into a resolute veteran Santosh Kumar Sinha and settled for a 60-move draw. The Kerala-lad was better placed but failed to break the defence of Sinha and eventually drew following perpetual checks.

After second seed M. R. Lalith Babu received a walkover, two-time National champion M. Karthikeyan had to deal with some anxious moments against local girl Vantika Agarwal who lost her way after attaining a fairly promising position.

Much before top seeded Tajikistan GM Farrukh Amonatov needed 62 moves to overpower Aditya Mittal, Dzhumaev played only 16 moves before splitting the point with Soham Datar. D. B. Chandra Prasad, who qualified for the 14-player National championship last year, crashed to a shock 40-move loss to Aditya Basu, rated 1967.

Bangladesh’s Sherajul Kabir Mohammad surprisingly held IM S. Nitin in 60 moves while Jitendra Kumar Chaudhary proved equal to Egyptian GM Abdulrahman Hesham in 63 moves.

Deshmukh blundered in a winning position and lost in 31 moves to lowly-rated Sambit Panda while Rakshitta Ravi, the 2015 World girls (under-10) champion proved equal to former Commonwealth champion IM Atanu Lahiri in 58 moves. Similarly, young N. Priyanka pulled off a creditable draw against Katarzyna in 69 moves.

Meanwhile, three Grandmasters – Ukraine’s Olexandr Bortnyk, local boy Vaibhav Suri and Debashis Das – pulled out of the event. While Bortnyk failed to procure his visa in time, Suri and Das cited indisposition as the reason for not making it.

Earlier, the event was inaugurated by Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia after Bharat Singh Chauhan, the CEO of the All India Chess Federation, announced that next year, the event would carry an enhanced prize-fund of Rs, 77.77 lakh – a whopping raise of Rs. 26.70 lakh over the present purse of Rs. 51.51 lakh.