National Championship: Shyaam Nikhil prevails in a 48-move thriller

Top seed and two-time champion M. Karthikeyan had an off day as P. Shyaam Nikhil beat him in a 48-move game.

P.Shyaam Nikhil beat Murali Karthikeyan of Tamil Nadu during the eighth round.   -  RANJEET KUMAR

P. Shyaam Nikhil is a man of few words. He is shy of talking about his game, underplays his abilities in chess and prefers to stay in the background. This self-effacing man could easily be lost in a crowd in spite of having reasons to be the centre of attraction.

The man from the Intergral Coach Factory came for the eighth round of the Khadi India National chess championship, trying to forget the previous day drubbing in just 22 moves. Worse, he was facing top seed M. Karthikeyan. But Sunday proved to be an off-day for the two-time champion. He faltered more than once and Shyaam proved unforgiving in 48 moves.

This result may have helped Shyaam regain his confidence but it surely favoured the leader Aravindh Chithambaram.

Aravindh, seeded second, got past third seed S. L. Narayanan in a 56-move thriller. The defeats of Karthikeyan and Narayanan, coupled with drawn result involving M. R. Lalith Babu, doubled Aravindh’s lead to one point.

With five rounds to go, Aravindh leads at six points. Arghyadip, who defeated Himanshu Sharma, joined Lalith in the joint second spot at five points. Karthikeyan and Narayanan slipped to the joint-fourth with 4.5 points.

In the biggest upset of the event so far, Shyaam reaped the harvest for being solid and organized. Facing Sicilian Narjdorf, Karthikeyan’s decision to castle on the kingside, instead of blocking the advancement of Shyaam’s kingside pawn proved critical. This allowed Shyaam to proceed on a definite line of attack. Around the 30th move, Shyaam offered his rook for a knight and reinforced his grip on the proceedings. Shyaam was left with a knight and six pawns against Karthikeyan’s rook and three pawns. Shyaam, then, brought his queen back on the board. He also prevented, on time, Karthikeyan’s pawn from reaching the last-rank square. At this point, the champion gave up.

The Aravindh-Narayanan battle was one of the most action-filled game seen here so far. The two youngsters were at each other’s throat in this Ruy Lopez game. Aravindh sacrificed a bishop for two kingside pawns to leave Narayanan’s fortress in disarray. Undeterred, Narayanan counter-attacked. Eventually, Aravindh’s two extra pawns proved decisive in 56 moves.


Eighth round: Aravindh Chithambaram (6) beat S. L. Narayanan (4.5) in 56 moves; M. Karthikeyan (4.5) lost to P. Shyaam Nikhil (3.5) in 48 moves; Abhijit Kunte (3.5) drew with M. R. Lalith Babu (5) in 28 moves; Arghyadip Das (5) beat Himanshu Sharma (2) in 74 moves; Swapnil Dhopade (4) drew with Debashis Das (4) in 59 moves; R. R. Laxman (4) drew with S. Nitin (4) in 44 moves; Sammed Shete (2.5) lost to Deepan Chakkravarthy (3.5) in 40 moves.


Ninth-round pairings: Lalith-Aravindh; Debashis-Arghadip; Himanshu-Karthikeyan; Narayanan-Sammed; Nitin-Kunte; Shyaam-Laxman; Deepan-Swapnil.
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