Popov keeps winning; Sayantan holds top seed Grachev

Ivan Popov has emerged as the man to beat in the Delhi International Open Grandmasters chess tournament after he overcame Ukraine’s Vitaly Sivuk to maintain his lead at the top.

Sayantan Das at the 14th Delhi International Open Grandmaster Chess Tournament in New Delhi.   -  Sushil Kumar Verma

Ivan Popov has emerged as the man to beat in the Delhi International Open Grandmasters chess tournament.

The second seeded Russian scored his seventh victory in as many rounds following a well-calculated queen-sacrifice against Ukraine’s Vitaly Sivuk. With three rounds to go, Popov holds a 1.5-point lead over the nearest challengers.

Young talent Sayantan Das proved equal to the top seeded Russian Grandmaster (GM) Boris Grachev to join Sivuk and nine others at 5.5 points. Encouragingly, Pradeep Kumar continued his fine run against GMs and virtually sealed an International Master norm after a 54-move draw with Sriram Jha.

Though four of the top five boards ended as draws, Popov was relentless in his pursuit of victory. His 32-move destruction of second-placed Sivuk was rather sudden. He pulled off a five-move combination to trade his queen and bishop for two rooks, a bishop and a knight, to leave Sivuk in a hopeless position.

Satyantan was locked in a closed position in Sicilian Defence with Grachev. Though the Russian did create some pressure with well-planted pawns, the two chose to sign peace instead of engaging in a long battle.

On the lower boards, Somak Palit, Himal Gusain and Pratik Patil proved equal to Grandmasters Alberto David (Italy, 2597), Mikhail Mozharov (Rus, 2559) and Sipke Ernst (Ned, 2536) in keeping with the trend of lesser-known Indians proving equal to higher-ranked overseas favourites.

Meanwhile, the ‘C’ Category tournament, for those rated 1599 and below, opened with a record-making field. In all, 1012 players started the 10-round competition, making it the largest congregation of players in an event that has an official entry fee of Rs. 3,500 in the country.

The results (Indians unless stated):

Seventh round: Ivan Popov (Rus, 7) bt Vitaly Sivuk (Ukr, 5.5); Sayantan Das (5.5) drew with Boris Grachev (Rus, 5.5); S. Ravi Teja (5.5) drew with Yuri Solodovnichenko (Ukr, 5.5); Sriram Jha (5.5) drew with Pradeep Kumar (5.5); Himanshu Sharma (5) drew with Anton Demchenko (Rus, 5); M. R. Lalith Babu (5.5) bt K. Praneeth Surya (4.5); Nguyen Duc Hoa (Vie, 5.5) bt S. Nitin (4.5); N. Srinath (5) drew with N. R. Visakh (5); P. Iniyan (4.5) lost to Attila Czebe (Hun, 5.5); N. R. Vignesh (5.5) bt C. R. G. Krishna (4.5); Valeriy Neverov (Ukr, 5) bt Mehar Chinna Reddy (4.5).