National Chess C'ship: Aravindh, Lalith title-race goes to the wire

On Friday, Lalith plays white against Swapnil Dhopade, while Aravindh sits behind the black pieces against Debashis Das.

Aravindh overcame time-pressure to carve out a victory in 49 moves against last-man Himanshu.   -  Ranjeet Kumar

The first two places in the Khadi India National chess championship stood firmly sealed with M. R. Lalith Babu and Aravindh Chithambaram taking their title-race to the wire by moving 1.5 points ahead after the 12th and penultimate round here on Thursday.

The overnight joint leaders won their games in style to move to 8.5 points. Lalith, seeded fourth and playing black against third seed S. L. Narayanan, came up with a brilliant knight-sacrifice on way to a highly-impressive 39-move victory in their Italian game.

Aravindh, on the other hand, overcame time-pressure to carve out a flamboyantly-executed victory in 49 moves following the opening lines of Petroff Defence against last-man Himanshu.

As things stand, in the final round, Lalith needs to match Aravindh’s result to take the title. In case of a tie, Lalith will be placed ahead due to his triumph over Aravindh in their encounter.

On Friday, Lalith plays white against Swapnil Dhopade, while Aravindh sits behind the black pieces against Debashis Das.

Besides the leaders, S. Nitin and debutant Sammed Shete emerged winners. Nitin saw off the Bird’s Opening tried by Deepan and launched an effective queenside attack to win in 32 moves.

Sammed forced an exchange of knight with a rook on the 26th move against Shyaam Nikhil and prevailed in 64 moves.

 

Later, Sammed forced an exchange of knight with a rook on the 26th move against Shyaam Nikhil and prevailed in 64 moves.

In the context of the title-race, Lalith and Aravindh truly raised the bar in search of victory. Lalith gained immensely once Narayanan’s sense of danger failed him. Unable to understand Lalith’s plan of assaulting the castled king, Narayanan allowed too much momentum to his rival’s pieces. A knight-sacrifice from Lalith on the 35th move forced a hapless Narayanan to give up when faced with an inevitable defeat.

All this while, Aravindh was dominating Himanshu, who was battling to prevent an unprecedented sixth successive defeat. Like Lalith, Aravindh, too, sacrificed a knight to launch a decisive attack before Himanshu exchanged his rook for a centrally-planted bishop to delay what had by then become a predictable outcome.

Aravindh was short of time to complete the stipulated 40 moves in about 110 minutes on his clock but his superior calculation saw him land the knockout punch in 49 moves.