From the avoidable mess, the focus was back on chess on Monday with four of the five players who withdrew on Sunday rejoining the fray in the National chess championship here.
With the action moving to a fourth venue – at Hotel Renaissance – ahead of the fifth round, the profile of the premier event got the much-needed face-lift following the intervention of the All India Chess Federation President P. R. Venketrama Raja.
Thereafter, it was business as usual for the creamy layer of the field. Top seed Vidit Gujarathi, third seed Aravindh Chithambaram, in-form S. Ravi Teja along with Tejas Bakre and lesser-known D. B. Chandra Prasad all recorded victory with white pieces.
The experience of Abhijit Kunte offset the recent form and reputation of second seeded B. Adhiban in their drawn game. R. R. Laxman benefitted from the withdrawal of Neeraj Kumar Mishra and gained an unscheduled rest day.
Vidit produced a brilliant finish to his game against Abhishek Kelkar in 37 turns in a clash that was fought on an even keel till about 32 moves. Vidit chose to trade his rook for a bishop on the 29th move and came up with immaculate tactics to leave Kelkar with no choice to resign.
Kunte was a shade better when the players agreed to split the point in 25 moves. Aravindh looked better off against Karthikeyan during the 31-move battle. He was quick to punish the defending champion for a plan to launch the offensive from the queenside. Aravindh claimed a bishop on the 29th move and Karthikeyan gave up two moves later.
Tejas gained from a poor error of judgement from S. Nitin who capitulated in just 22 moves, resigning when he could not recover a lost bishop. Teja punished Sriram Jha for a late error and won in 42 moves. This was Jha’s fourth loss in five rounds and pushed him to the bottom of the table.
Mishra, who has qualified for the Nationals more than 10 times since 1983, maintained his stand and chose not to continue in the championship. “It is my personal decision based on the kind of treatment meted out to the players in this championship. Not that my withdrawal impacts the title-race in any way, we will see some very good games. I feel it is time players stayed together and raised their voice demanding appropriate playing conditions.”
Fifth round: D. B. Chandra Prasad (3) bt Surya Praneeth (1); Tejas Bakre (2) bt S. Nitin (3); Vidit Gujarathi (2.5) bt Abhishek Kelkar (1.5); R. R. Laxman (3) bye; Abhijit Kunte (1.5) drew with B. Adhiban (3); Aravindh Chithambaram (4) bt M. Karthikeyan (2.5); S. Ravi Teja (4) bt Sriram Jha (0.5).
Sixth round pairings: Praneeth-Jha; Karthikeyan-Teja; Adhiban-Chithambaram; Kelkar-Laxman; Nitin-Vidit; Prasad-Tejas; Kunte bye.
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