National Chess Championship: Aravindh Chithambaram jumps to sole lead

Aravindh Chithambaram got the better of Murali Karthikeyan to storm into the final round of the National Chess Championship 2018 as the sole leader.

Aravindh Chithambaram (left) on his way to a crucial victory over two-time winner Murali Karthikeyan in the 12th and penultimate round of the National chess championship in Jammu on Monday.   -  Rakesh Rao

A series of decisive battles, involving title-aspirants, was in keeping with the expectations from the penultimate round. When the dust settled after some fierce fights on the top four boards, Aravindh Chithambaram emerged as the only leader heading into Tuesday’s final round of the National chess championship here.

Aravindh, last year’s runner, overpowered a resurgent Murali Karthikeyan, seeded two, and raised his tally to 9.5 points from 12 rounds. G. A. Stany, the other overnight leader, could not add to his tally of 8.5 points after running into C. R. G. Krishna. Vaibhav Suri rekindled his title-prospects by beating Deepan Chakkravarthy in 42 moves.

Previous round's report: Aravindh stops Suri, rejoins Stany in lead

Having already beaten top seed Abhijeet Gupta and third seed Suri, fourth seed Aravindh’s latest victory meant he scored over all three higher seeds in the 13-round competition. The youngster now enjoys a half-point lead over Krishna and Suri. Stany, Deep Sengupta, M. R. Venkatesh, Vishnu Prasanna and Sirjit Paul share the fourth spot with 8.5 points.

Aravindh, playing black, gained early advantage in this Sicilian game with Karthikeyan losing a kingside pawn on the 21st move. Once the queens were off the board, Aravindh trained his rooks on the castled white king and gained a second pawn on the 41st move. Three moves later, Karthikeyan gave up. The defeat also dashed Karthikeyan’s hopes of winning a third title in four editions.

Krishna, too, needed 44 moves with black pieces to push Stany to his second defeat in the competition. After opting for French Defence, Stany bravely chose to trade his queen for a rook, a knight and a pawn. Until the 30th move, the battle was fought on an even keel before Stany erred with his decision to push his king forward on the 32nd turn. Soon Krishna found a tactical shot, gained two more pawns following the exchange of rooks and his knight for Stany’s bishop. Once Krishna thrust his well-aided central pawn to the sixth rank, Stany gave up.

Leading results (12th round)

Murali Karthikeyan (8) lost to Aravindh Chithambaram (9.5); G. A. Stany (8.5) lost to C. R. G. Krishna (9); Vaibhav Suri (9) bt Deepan Chakkravarthy (8); Deep Sengupta (8.5) bt Tejas Bakre (8); N. R. Vignesh (8) drew with Sandipan Chanda (8); M. R. Venkatesh (8.5) bt S. Nitin (7.5); P. Shyam Nikhil (8) drew with Karthik Venkatraman (8) Pravin Thipsay (7.5) lost to Vishnu Prasanna (8.5); Srijit Paul (8.5) bt Anurag Mhamal (7.5); Swapnil Dhopade (7.5) drew with G. Akash (8).

Top-five final-round pairings

Aravindh-Krishna; Suri-Paul; Prasanna-Deep; Venkatesh-Stany; Akash-Murali Karthikeyan.