On the verge of her Grandmaster title, R Vaishali outwitted former Women’s world champion Zhongyi Tan of China to remain in sole lead after the end of the 10th and penultimate round of FIDE Women Grand Prix here.
Vaishali, along with her younger brother Praggnanandhaa, became the first brother-sister duo to qualify for the respective Candidates, and they will be in action in Canada next year, fighting for a place in the World Championship finals.
At a 2498 live rating, Vaishali is just two points short of becoming a Grandmaster, and when she does that, she and Praggnanandhaa will also become the first siblings in the world to achieve this feat.
Vaishali, on eight points, is followed solely by Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine, a half point behind. Another half point away is Vaishali’s last-round opponent Batkhuyag Mungutuul of Mongolia.
Vaishali’s second place is secured irrespective of her last round result.
It was a Sicilian defence by Zhongyi, and it came as a surprise to Vaishali as the Chinese went for the Classical system. Vaishali decided to sidestep long theoretical battles, and her instinct proved right even though Zhongyi got a fighting position in the middle game.
Known to create chances, Vaishali geared up to launch a king side attack against a centralised black king, and it paid great dividends. Vaishali picked up pawns at will, and black’s desired counter play never saw the light of the day.
In the open section, Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi also continued with his dazzling run and put it across Deac Bogdan-Daniel of Romania in a one-sided affair.
Vidit’s fourth victory with black pieces ensured that he remained in the joint lead alongside Hikaru Nakamura of the United States and Andrey Esipenko of Russia, who all have 7.5 points apiece.
With just one round remaining in the 460000 USD prize money event, Arjun Erigaisi also remained in contention for a place in the candidates with a finely crafted victory over Samuel Savian of the United States.
Arjun is now joint fourth in the event and needs a victory over Nakamura to remain in the hunt for the candidates for which two places are reserved from this tournament.
Gujrathi employed the Sicilian defence to show his intentions for a complex battle. Bogdan-Daniel fell prey to a tactical shot and lost a pawn, and thereon, the Indian was a perfect picture of composure as he improved slowly and wrapped up the full point.
Praggnanandhaa (6 points) meanwhile played out a draw with Anton Korobov of Ukraine and remained in the hunt for a place in the prize list along with P Harikrishna, Aravindh Chithambaram and S L Narayanan, who all inched up to 5.5 points following draws in the tenth round.
Amongst the ladies, Tania Sachdev and D Harika posted victories to reach 5.5 points, while Vantika Agrawal and Divya Deshmukh also had winning outings to reach five points, respectively.
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