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India go down to Ukraine

October 23, 2004 14:07 IST

The Indian men succumbed to their first defeat against Ukraine going down by a minimal margin of 1.5-2.5 in a keenly contested encounter in the seventh round of the 36th Chess Olympiad at Gran Casino in Mallorca, Spain.

For India, World Rapid champion Viswanathan Anand drew with Vassily Ivanchuk, Sasikiran held former World champion Ruslan Ponomariov to a draw, P Harikrishna missed his winning chances before signing peace with Pavel Eljanov while Abhijit Kunte was humbled by World's youngest ever Grandmaster Sergey Karjakin.

In the biggest sensational result of the Olympiad, ninth seed Bulgaria beat top seed and defending champions Russia 2.5-1.5 to change the equations dramatically.

As things stand now at the half-way stage in the biggest chess event, Ukraine moved to 21.5 points after their triumph over India and also stretched its lead to 2 points over nearest rivals Russia, Armenia and Bulgaria.

Spain 'A', occupies the fifth spot solely on 19 points after beating Azerbaijan while India slipped to joint sixth spot on 18.5 points along with Poland.

Next in line are Azerbaijan, United States and France who all have 18 points apiece.

A few days back looking at the victories of Ivanchuk, Anand had said "Chucky looks unstoppable".

Indeed the Ukrainian is playing the best chess of his career and his personal score so far is an astounding 6/7 here.

In fact, before the game against Anand, Ivanchuk had a performance rating of over 3000 ELO points which is a dream for every chess player.

Anand had come well-armed for this important match and for the first time Ivanchuk was in serious trouble in this  Olympiad.

Playing the white side of a Petroff defence, Anand went for established theoretical manoeuvres and it turned out that his preparation was more deeper than the Ukranian. Playing quick and correct Anand had a tangible advantage in the middle game when suddenly Ivanchuk sank in to a deep thought.

Working out a fine defensive plan Ivanchuk did not bother much about his clock and was down to last five minutes in the latter part of the middle game.

However, the position by then was under control and even though Anand won a pawn with precise technique the resulting rook and pawns endgame was just level. After 40 moves the players agreed to sign peace.

Sasikiran handled the black side of the Brayer quite well after Ponomariov had gone for his pet Ruy Lopez. The middle game was intense as Sasikiran struck quite well on the Queen side while Ponomariov made progress on the other flank.

Very few pieces were exchanged in a long middle game and Ponomariov proposed a draw after his 38th move realising that making a decisive progress was risky.

"His king side was open, but I am not sure if I had an advantage, also I had just five minutes left at this point against his 10, so I think the decision was right," Sasikiran said after agreeing to the proposal.

Abhijit Kunte was outplayed in all departments of the game by Karjakin. It was one of those days when nothing worked right for the former winner of the British championship, whereas the young boy tormented him for a long time.

Sticking to his new found love in the Berlin defence, Abhijit felt the heat right from the Queen-less middle game and could not equalise at any point of time.

The Indian sensed the troubles in the offing but did not counter them correctly allowing Karjakin to make excellent progress on the king side. After exchanging both the rooks, Karjakin made his advantage decisive thanks to his better pawn structure and coasted to a smooth victory in 38 moves.

It was left to Harikrishna to equalise for India but he faltered in mutual time pressure to blow away a winning endgame against Eljanov. It was a position akin to the Catalan that gave Harikrishna excellent chances in the endgame after Eljanov went for an erroneous plan.

The Indian had his opponent in all sorts of troubles despite exchange of pieces at regular intervals and increased his advantage with correct deployment of forces.

However, down to his last few minutes, Harikrishna made the decisive mistake on the 48th move after which most of the pieces got traded quickly.

The resulting position was a pawn plus Knight and pawn endgame with no chances for either player and the draw was agreed to on the 57th move.

Bulgaria commanded the proceedings in their match against Russia thanks to a very spirited effort by Ivan Cheparinov on the third board.

The seasoned Grandmaster accounted for Alexander Grishchuk in the lone decisive game of the match. For Russia, the loss was simply disastrous as their hopes of seventh straight triumph got a big jolt.

In the 2002 Olympiad at Bled in Slovenia, the Russian men had won comprehensively but had lost just one match against Hungary.

Here, so far, they have already lost two matches, earlier one against Ukraine in the fourth round.

In other important matches in this round, Armenia bounced back into reckoning after beating third seed Israel by a handsome 3-1 margin while Poland outwitted Philippines with the same score.

Important results round 7:
India (18.5) lost to Ukraine (21.5) 1.5-2.5; Russia (19.5) lost to Bulgaria (19.5) 1.5-2.5; Armenia (19.5) beat Israel (17.5) 3-1; Azerbaijan (18) lost to Spain 'A' (19) 2.5-1.5; Georgia (17.5) drew with Cuba (17.5); France (18) beat Slovakia ( 17) 2.5-1.5; Poland (18.5) beat Philippines (16) 3- 1; Greece (16.5) lost to Serbia Montenegro (17.5) 1.5-2.5; Argentina (16.5) lost to China (17.5) 1.5-2.5; Netherlands (17.5) beat England (16.5) 2.5-1.5; Singapore (16) lost to United States (17) 1.5-2.5; Czech Republic (17) beat Indonesia (16) 2.5-1.5; Scotland (16) lost to Slovenia (17) 1.5-2.5; Moldova (17.5) beat Sweden (15.5) 3-1; Spain 'B' (16) lost to Uzbekistan (17) 1.5-2.5; Hungary (16.5) drew with Romania (16) 2-2; Kazakhstan (17) beat Lithuania (15) 3-1; Estonia (17) beat Chile (15) 3-1; Latvia (15.5) drew with Switzerland (16) 2-2.


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