Memorable outing

Indian chess bloomed at Al Ain, the Garden City of the UAE recently. Not only did the Indians win three out of the six medals at stake in the Asian Continental Championship, but four of them qualified for the World Cup as well. India also picked up four out of the six medals at the Asian rapid championship that was conducted after the main event.

But there was a disappointment in the classical women's event, as S. Vijayalakshmi, who had begun the final round with a half-apoint lead, lost to Shen Yang of China. The 36-year-old gritty lady from Chennai had to settle for the bronze. The win helped Shen take the silver, behind Iran's Mitra Hejazipour, the surprise champion. They had finished with seven points each from nine rounds, but a better tie-break score favoured the Iranian.

Viji scored 6.5 points, the same as Pratyusha Bodda, who took the fourth place. Pratyusha also gained an amazing 132.4 Elo points for playing way above her rating (she was seeded 32nd). Two other Indian women, Tania Sachdev and Mary Ann Gomes, were placed eighth and ninth respectively.

The Indian men fared better, with six of them making it to the top 10. The best performer among them was Surya Shekhar Ganguly, who finished runner-up after tying (seven points) for the title with Salem Saleh of the host nation.

Ganguly defeated Zhang Zhong of Singapore on the second board in the final round to ensure that he would get the silver. On the top board, the 11th-seeded Saleh drew with another Indian, Vidit Gujrathi, to seal the crown.

The bronze was won by India's S. P. Sethuraman, while Gujrathi finished fourth. Both the men qualified for the World Championship, along with Ganguly, Sethuraman and M. R. Lalith Babu, who finished seventh. Abhijeet Gupta and Abhijit Kunte were placed ninth and tenth respectively.

In the rapid event, Sandipan Chanda took the silver and Debashis Das won the bronze. Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son of Vietnam won the gold. In the women's section, Tania Sachdev and Dronavalli Harika claimed the silver and bronze respectively. The title was won by Tan Zhongyi of China.

P. K. Ajith Kumar