National Chess C’ship: Narayanan, Lalith share lead

After three rounds, spread over 21 games, produced only six outright winners, five result-oriented battles came as a breath of fresh air.

S. L. Narayanan (left) plotting the finishing touches to his fourth round game against Arghyadip Das in the Khadi India National Chess Championship in Patna on Tuesday.   -  RAKESH RAO

Five decisive battles truly brightened up the fourth round proceedings of the Khadi India National chess championship here on Tuesday. Once the dust settled down, S. L. Narayanan and M. R. Lalith Babu led with three points on Tuesday.

Besides Narayanan and Lalith, who came out stronger with black pieces for their second win, defending champion M. Karthikeyan, R. R. Laxman and Swapnil Dhopade won for the first time.

After three rounds, spread over 21 games, produced only six outright winners, five result-oriented battles came as a breath of fresh air. Barring Lalith, who gained from the inability of his good friend Debashis Das to recall the recommended continuation in the line he preferred to play, all other triumphant players had to work much harder.

Narayanan declined a draw-offer from Arghyadip Das after the opening phase in Ponziani Opening and Scotch Gambit. He went on to improve his position and in the end game involving rooks and pawns, captured a central pawn. This one-pawn surplus went on to decide the game in 68 moves.

The sharp battle involving Debashis and Lalith in the Rubinstein variation of Nimzo Indian followed theoretical lines for the better part of their unusual 29-move slugfest. Debashis sacrificed two minor pieces and recovered one even as Lalith’s king marched to the fifth rank of the board, that too, with the rooks and queens still in play.

Debashis, knowing well that the game could still be drawn, soon blundered and let Lalith’s king return to the back-rank safety.

Playing a piece-down, Debashis realised that he had missed an opportunity to recover the second minor piece and soon resigned.

For the second straight day, debutant Sammed Shete failed to cash in on a chance that could have earned him his first victory in the championship. But unlike the draw against Karthikeyan on Monday, Sammed lost to Laxman in an error-filled game, where the loser was the one who committed the last mistake.

Laxman sacrificed a bishop on the 31st move but failed to gain much in return. But Sammed, instead to pushing his rival to despair with a queen-move on the 34th turn, surprisingly returned the extra-knight.

Thereafter, it was Laxman who romped home in 58 moves.

Later, Karthikeyan exploited Deepan Chakkravarthy’s poor bishop-move on the 18th turn and squeezed out a victory in 41 moves. Dhopade, looking better off from the opening phase against Shyaam Nikhil, eventually won in 57 moves.

Results:

Fourth round: Debashis Das (1.5) lost to M. R. Lalith Babu (3) in 29 moves; Arghyadip Das (2) lost to S. L. Narayanan (3) in 68 moves; M. Karthikeyan (2.5) bt Deepan Chakkravarthy (1.5) in 41 moves; Abhijit Kunte (2) drew with Aravindh Chithambaram (2.5) in 40 moves; R. R. Laxman (2) bt Sammed Shete (1.5) in 58 moves; Swapnil Dhopade (2) bt P. Shyaam Nikhil (1.5) in 57 moves; Himanshu Sharma (1) drew with S. Nitin (2) in 25 moves.

Fifth-round pairings: Aravindh-Dhopade; Sammed-Kunte; Deepan-Laxman; Narayanan-Karthikeyan; Lalith-Arghyadip; Nitin-Debashis; Shyaam-Himanshu.