National Chess Championship: Nitin stuns Dhopade; Narayanan hunts down Himanshu

In terms of quality, there was nothing much to write home about. S. Nitin punished Grandmaster and Railway-teammate Swapnil Dhopade for being a little casual and overestimating his chances in their 37-move encounter. S. L. Narayanan, the focussed Kerala-boy, also won with black pieces by handing out a second successive defeat to Himanshu Sharma.

S. Nitin (right) seized the opportunity to nail his higher-ranked Railway teammate Grandmaster Swapnil Dhopade in the second round of Khadi India National chess championship in Patna on Sunday.   -  Rakesh Rao

Some short as well as long battles ended in draws and one of the two decisive games produced an unexpected winner during a sedate second round of Khadi India National chess championship here on Sunday.

In terms of quality, there was nothing much to write home about. S. Nitin punished Grandmaster and Railway-teammate Swapnil Dhopade for being a little casual and overestimating his chances in their 37-move encounter. S. L. Narayanan, the focussed Kerala-boy, also won with black pieces by handing out a second successive defeat to Himanshu Sharma.

As things stand, Narayanan, Deepan Chakkravarthy and M. R. Lalith Babu led with 1.5 points. Though Dhopade expectedly had the control of the central squares in the opening phase, as is expected for the one playing with white pieces against the Kings Indian Defence, it was Nitin whose pieces were in harmony.

Surprisingly, Dhopade chose not to castle and marched his king to the queenside for safety. In the meantime, Nitin marshalled his resources better, moved his rooks to the queenside and soon pinned down Dhopade’s king. Nitin also benefited vastly from Dhopade’s inactive queen-side rook and the queen-rook combination that proved passive onlookers even as the white king came under siege.

Narayanan was happy to castle on the queen’s side once Himanshu opted for the exchange variation of Ruy Lopez. With Himanshu letting his rival develop his pieces in good time, the match looked to be headed in Narayanan’s favour. Narayanan’s better-placed rooks on the queenside made a huge difference as one of his pawns reached the final rank before Himanshu had to give up his rook to prevent the pawn to become a ‘queen’. Himanshu gave up after 53 moves.

Among the drawn encounters, the much-anticipated clash involving the top two seeds, defending champion M. Karthikeyan and Aravindh Chithambaram, proved a damp squib.  In French Defence, the move-order opted by Karthikeyan in the early part of the opening phase left him ruing the missed opportunity to push Aravindh on the defensive. A series of exchanges followed and led to an equal position where the players had a rook, a knight and five pawns each after 29 moves.

The results:

Second round:

Swapnil Dhopade (0.5) lost to S. Nitin (1) in 37 moves; P. Shyaam Nikhil (1) drew with M. R. Lalith Babu (1.5) in 26 moves; Himanshu Sharma (0) lost to S. L. Narayanan (1.5) in 53 moves; Debashis Das (1) drew with Deepan Chakkravarthy (1.5) in 62 moves; Arghadip Das (1) drew with Sammed Shete (1) in 25 moves; M. Karthikeyan (1) drew with Aravindh Chithambaram (1) in 30 moves; R. R. Laxman (1) drew with Abhijit Kunte (1) in 27 moves.

Third-round pairings: Kunte-Dhopade; Aravindh-Laxman; Sammed-Karthikeyan; Deepan-Arghadip; Narayanan-Debashis; Babu-Himanshu; Nitin-Shyaam.