Riding on the efforts of International Master S Vijayalakshmi, Indian eves cruised to an emphatic 2-1 victory over eighth seeds France in the eighth round of the 36th Chess Olympiad at Gran Casino in Mallorca.
Vijayalakshmi scored the winner for Indians against IM Marie Sebag after Grandmaster Koneru Humpy, playing on the top board, and Nisha Mohota settled for draws with IM Almira Skripchenko and Sophie Millet respectively.
China continued to dominate the 87-team event and defeated Poland 2-1 to move to 20.5 points out of 24 games played. Lithuania elevated themselves to sole second spot after beating England by a similar margin while Russia and Hungary shared the third spot on 16 points each.
India, Poland, United States and Ukraine jointly occupied the fifth spot after moving to 15.5 points while England were next in the standings on 15.
With six rounds still remaining in the Olympiad and Chinese women running away from everyone's reach, the bigger question here now is who will win the silver and bronze rather than the gold medal.
Vijayalakshmi has to her credit two silver medals in the previous two editions of the Olympiad and certainly this event brings out the best in her. After the eight matches, Vijayalakshmi is the top Indian scorer on five points out of seven games that she has played.
Playing white against Sebag, Vijayalakshmi knew that her game was very important for the team as this was the only white Indians had.
Taking a cue from Humpy's simple play yet again, she got a slight but tangible advantage against her opponent's Slav defense.
Marie thought she had a defendable position when she went for the trade of queens in the middlegame but that, in hindsight, proved a wrong decision as Vijayalakshmi had an easy game with clear targets.
Cashing in on further errors from Sebag, Vijayalakshmi stamped her absolute authority in the endgame with excellent timing. Sebag resigned after 67 moves.
Earlier in the day, Nisha Mohota drew quite easily with Millet. It was a Sicilain Alapin wherein the Indian just had to defend right in the Isolated Queen pawn middle game and subsequent exchanges led to a level endgame. The peace was signed at the behest of the French after 39 moves.
Humpy fought harder but could not break through the defenses of Skripchenko who is a regarded player in European circuit. Playing against a rather unorthodox Closed Sicilian, Humpy equalised comfortably and strove hard for more even as Skripchenko was content to hang in there.
The Indian spurned down a draw proposal on the 20th move but failed to find anything specific thereafter. After 45 moves, the peace was signed through repetition of moves.
World Cup Champion Xu Yuhua again struck for China on the second board against Joanna Dworakowska of Poland in the lone decisive game of the top table. On other boards for China, Xie Jun was held to a draw by Iweta Radzeiwics while Zhao Xue drew with Marta Zielinski.
In other important matches of the day, Ukraine defeated Sweden 2-1 while United States tamed the Armenians by a similar margin.
Results Round 8:
Poland (15.5) lost to China (20.5) 1-2; Lithuania (165) beat England (15) 2-1; Hungary (16) beat Bulgaria (04.5) 2-1; Kazakhstan (14) lost to Russia (16) 0.5-2.5; United States (15.5) beat Armenia (14.5) 2-1; Fra.cd (14.5) lost to India (15.5) 1-2; Ukraine (15.5) bea4 Sweden (14.5) 2-1; Aze rbaijan (13.5) lost to Georgia (14.5) 1-2; Netherlands (13.5) lost to Israel (14.5) 1-2; Romania (13.5) lost to Serbia Montenegro (14.5) 1-2: Australia (13) lost to Latvia (14) 1-2; Greece (13) lost to Slovakia (14) 1-2; Czech Republic (13) lost to Iran (14) 1-2; Finland (12.5) lost to Germany (1. 5) 1-2; Vietnam (11.5) lost to Mongolia (14.5) 0-3; Denmark (12) lost to Moldova (14) 0.5-2.5; Slovenia (04) beat Malaysia (12) 2.5-0.5; Cuba (13.5) beat Belar (12.5) 2-1; Argentina (13.5) beat Peru (12) 2-1.