Nat'l Challengers: Lalith Babu battles to reach joint second spot

M. R. Lalith Babu matched Himanshu’s tally after a five-hour battle with Mary Ann Gomes, while top-seed Aravindh Chithambaram was part of a seven-player group that shared the fourth spot with 7.5 points each.

Grandmaster M. R. Lalith Babu who defeated his Indian Oil teammate -- Woman Grandmaster Mary Ann Gomes -- to move to the joint second spot after 10 rounds of the National Challengers chess championship in Ahmedabad on Sunday.   -  Rakesh Rao

With the home-stretch in sight, the leading contenders headed by Swapnil Dhopade are gearing up for a powerful finish in the National Challengers chess championship here on Sunday.

For the nine qualifying spots at stake for the next National championship, 24 players fancied their chances after the 10th round. In the remaining three rounds, each aspirant will adopt varying
strategies to seal a place among the first nine finishers.

Dhopade (nine points) and second-placed Himanshu Sharma (8) chose to save their energies for the harder battles ahead by drawing their games on the first two boards. As anticipated, Dhopade and S. Satyapragyan belted out the minimum-stipulated 25 moves for a draw, exactly the modus operandi adopted by Railway teammates S. Ravi Teja and Himanshu.

M. R. Lalith Babu matched Himanshu’s tally after a five-hour battle, spread over 85 moves, with the Indian Oil teammate Mary Ann Gomes. In another engaging battle of wits, involving Indian Oil colleagues, former National champion Abhijit Kunte failed to break the defences of the reigning National women champion Padmini Rout and settled for a draw after 58 moves.

A victorious top seed Aravindh Chithambaram was part of a seven-player group sharing the fourth spot at 7.5 points. Fellow Grandmasters Debashis Das, Deepan Chakravarthy, International Masters S. Nitin and Arghadip Das also won their games to join Satyapragyan and Teja.

In all, 14 players were on seven points. Those who reached the tally with a victory were second seed S. L. Narayanan, K. Ratnakaran, Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury, Akash Iyer, Sammed Shete, Sameer Kathmale and Baivab Mishra.

The results:

10th round: Swapnil Dhopade (9) drew with S. Satyapragyan (7.5); S. Ravi Teja (7.5) drew with Himanshu Sharma (8); M. R. Lalith Babu (8) bt Mary Ann Gomes (7); Fenil Shah (6.5) lost to Aravindh Chithambaram (7.5); Abhijit Kunte (7) drew with Padmini Rout (7)

Niranjan Navalgund (6.5) lost to Debashis Das (7.5); Koustav Chatterjee (6.5) lost to Deepan Chakkravarthy (7.5); P. Shyamnikhil (7) drew with Sriram Jha (7); Udit Kamdar (6.5) lost to S. Nitin (7.5); Arghyadip Das (7.5) bt S. Jayakumaar (6.5); R. R. Laxman (7) drew with E. Arjun (7).

Leading 11th-round pairings: Babu-Dhopade; Himanshu-Chithambaram; Debashis-Arghyadip; Deepan-Satyapragyan; Nitin-Ravi; Arjun-Narayanan; Kunte-Saptarshi; Padmini-Shyamnikhil; Kathmale-Laxman; Jha-Akash; Ratnakaran-Shete; Mary-Baivab.