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Kunte slips to fifth position
January 04, 2004 20:52 IST
Grandmaster Abhijit Kunte was held to a draw by International Master Daniel Gormally of England in the seventh round of the premier event of Hastings International Chess Congress at Hastings, England on Sunday.
Russian GM Vladimir Epishin maintained his slender half point lead in the tournament after settling for a hard fought draw with his main contender GM Vasilios Kotronias of Cyprus.
The second position is jointly held by Kotronias and GM Jonathan Rowson of Scotland who both have 4.5 points each in their kitty while defending champion GM Peter Heine Nielsen of Denmark elevated himself to sole fourth spot on 4 points.
Kunte slipped to fifth on 3.5, half a point ahead of erstwhile leader GM Mark Hebden of England and 14-year-old IM Kateryna Lahno of Ukraine.
After two short draws, Kunte appeared determined for a showdown with Gormally but the Englishman came out well-armed against the pet Sicilian of the Indian. The middle game was fiercer than Kunte expected and after some thought, decided to part with his queen for two pieces, getting enough compensation in terms of piece-play in the bargain.
Gormally tried to make some headway on the king side and even looked threatening but an alarmed Kunte warded off his threats in style, eventually sacrificing his Bishop to get an impregnable position against the queen. The peace treaty was signed after 54 moves.
Kotronias knew that his best chance of grabbing the lead in this round and gave it everything even though Epishin was quite up to the task in tackling a dangerous looking attack.
The middle game, arising out of a Sicilian Paulsen where the Russian played black, definitely gave Kotronias some advantage but Epishin managed to exchange pieces in tandem, thereby keeping the balance. A level rook endgame was reached and the draw was the just result after 44 moves.
Rowson caught up with Kotronias after punishing a rather lackluster attack by Hebden who played white. The opening was a shift from the normal variation in the Grunfeld by Hebden and his attack in the end only proved optical while Rowson picked up one pawn after another to reach a winning endgame. Hebden resigned after 45 moves.
Nielsen was the other beneficiary of an optical attack as he made use of his extra material against Alexander Cherniaev of Russia in a Caro Kann defence game as black. Cherniaev unexpectedly gave a piece in the middle game but never got the desired compensation.
The game between GM Stuart Conquest and Lahno ended in a draw after 33 moves of a Pirc defence game where the latter played black.
Results (Round 7): Vasilios Kotronias (4.5, Cyp) drew Vladimir Epishin (5, Rus); Mark Hebden (3, Eng) lost to Jonathan Rowson (4.5, Sco); Stuart Conquest (2.5, Eng) drew Kateryna Lahno (3, Ukr); Daniel Gormally (2.5, Eng) drew Abhijit Kunte (3.5); Alexander Cherniaev (2.5, Rus) lost to Peter Heine Nielsen (4, Den)
Standings after round 7: 1. Epishin 5; 2-3. Kotronias, Rowson 4.5; 4. Nielsen 4; 5. Kunte 3.5; 6-7. Hebden, Lahno 3 each; 8-10. Conquest, Gormally, Cherniaev 2.5 each.