Ratnakaran holds Naiditsch; Abhijeet, 10 others lead

International Master K. Ratnakaran (left) looks relaxed as highly-rated top seed Arkadij Naiditsch ponders over a move during their drawn encounter in the third round of Delhi International Open chess tournament.   -  RAKESH RAO

K. Ratnakaran is a man of few words. After all, this ever-smiling 36-year-old’s chess playing abilities have remained eloquent since 2001 when he emerged as the Asian junior bronze-medallist. Holder of two Grandmaster norms, the Kozhikode-based Railwayman has had quite a roller-coaster ride in his long career.

But, on Wednesday, Ratnakaran enjoyed a high like never before.

In what turned out to be his biggest result till date, Ratankaran proved equal to top-seeded Azerbaijani Arkadij Naiditsch and caused the surprise of the Delhi International Open chess tournament here. Rated 2,372, Ratnakaran stayed in control right through his 34-movetop-board battle that ended with a three-fold repetition of moves.

“I have never played anyone rated in excess of 2700. So when I checked the database for his games this afternoon, I realised he plays a number of openings. So I simply closed my laptop and came to the tournament hall,” was how the soft-spoken International Master
explained his preparedness.

Naiditsch opted for the French Defence, an opening choice that Ratnakaran found “quite strange.” Thereafter, Ratnakaran could develop his knight on the kingside and slowly got into a position from where he could not lose. He kept his calm and without getting too ambitious, settled for a draw. “I am very happy with the result. But I am also
surprised at certain continuations that Naiditsch chose,” was Ratnakaran’s candid observation.

On a double-round day, when third seed Abhijeet Gupta led a 11-player pack at three points, second seed Farrukh Amonatov and National champion M. R. Lalit Babu were relieved to get draws in inferior positions against A. L. Muttaiah and Aronyak Ghosh, respectively.

Two-time former National champion M. Karthikeyan, too, survivedseveral anxious moments before forcing a draw against youngster Mitrabha Guha.

The day also saw young Koustav Chatterjee get a walkover after his fourth seed Timur Gareyev (USA) reported late for his second round game. Drama followed as Gareyev hinted at withdrawing from the event, indicating the organiser was at fault.

Though provisionally, the game between the two was played, and Gareyev won, but later the status quo was maintained. Since Gareyev sent back the official pick-up car and later got stuck in a traffic jam, the Chief Arbiter B. H. Vasanth maintained his decision to award the point to Koustav.

Important results (Indians unless stated):

Third round: K. Ratnakaran (2.5) drew with Arkadij Naiditsch (Aze, 2.5); D. Gukesh (2) lost to Abhijeet Gupta (3); Sammed Shete (3) bt Ivan Rozum (Rus, 2); Kaustuv Kundu (2.5) drew with Sergey Tiviakov (Ned, 2.5); M. Karthikeyan (2.5) drew with Mitrabha Guha (2.5); Aronyak Ghosh (2.5) drew with M. R. Lalit Babu (2.5); Koustav Chatterjee (2.5) drew with P. Karthikeyan (2.5).

Second round: A. L. Muthaiah (1.5) drew with Farrukh Amonatov (Tjk, 1.5); Deeptayan Ghosh (1.5) drew with Rajesh Nayak (1.5); N. Lokesh (1.5) drew with Nguyen Duc Hoa (Vie, 1.5); Vinayak Kulkarni (1.5) drew with N. R. Vignesh (1.5); Atila Dzebe (Hun, 1) lost to Shantanu Bhambure (2); Himal Gusain (1.5) drew with Bharat Reddy (1.5); Rucha Pujari (1.5) drew with Marat Dzhumaev (Uzb, 1.5); Pratyusha Bodda (2) bt S. Nitin (1); R. Balasubramanium (1.5) drew with P. Shyaam Nikhil (1.5); Abhishek Kelkar (1.5) drew with Sankarsha Shelke (1.5); D. Jishitha drew with Hemant Sharma (1.5).