Youngsters Neelotpal Das and Sundararajan Kidambi missed their Grandmaster norms by a whisker by losing in the ninth and final round of the Asian Chess Championship won by Chinese Zhang Zhong in Hyderabad, on Saturday.
Kidambi, a strong contender for GM norm, bowed down to seasoned Susanto Megaranto of Indonesia in the Ruy Lopez opening and ended up with 5 points while Neelotpal fell short by half a point after he beat fellow-Indian Poobesh Anand to log 5.5 points.
"There was a fair chance for Kidambi but it's unfortunate that he lost. My chances were bleak and there's no scope for qualifying for the World Cup," a dejected looking Neelotpal said after the match.
On the top board, Zhang Zhong defeated Ni Hua in a marathon 90 moves in a game where the champion adopted French Defence to put up a sustained pressure on his opponent who flawed in the final stages to give Zhang 7.5 points and the championship.
Top ten players from the tournament will qualify for the ensuing World Cup to be held in Russia as also the players who logged six or more points will get the berth.
Koneru Humpy played the longest game of the tournament comprising 180 moves and signed the peace treaty with Rui Wang of China in a rook-knight versus rook ending game which started in the Queen's Gambit declined variation.
Humpy defended her King well with a single rook and her opponent could break the ice despite having a knight and a rook and finally called peace.
Top seed Krishnan Sasikiran called truce with China's Hao Wang in a Ruy Lopez game, while Abhijit Kunte foiled the game plan of Himanshu Sharma who declined the Queen's Gambit and lost the battle, Himanshu was the other GM norm aspirant who failed to achieve it in this tournament.
On other important boards, R B Ramesh logged 5.5 points defeating Reefat Bin-Sattar of Bangladesh, Tejas Bakre defeated Karen Grigoryan of Turkmenistan to notch 5 points, Palit Somak defeated Jayson Gonzales of the Phillipines to win 5 points.
Dinesh Sharma, Satyapragyan Swayungsu, Arghyadip Das, G Rohit, G N Gopal, P D S Girirnath, Abhijit Gupta, M R Venkatesh, Sandipan Chanda and R R Laxman also won their finals round matches.
Final standings: (Indians unless specified):
Zhang Zhong (CHN) 7.5 pts, Li Shilong (CHN) 7 points, Yue Wang (CHN) 6.5, Yu Wang (CHN) 6.5, Murtas Kkazhgaleyev (KAZ) 6.5, Pavel Kotsur (KAZ) 6.5, Darmen Sadvakasov (KAZ) 6.5, Wu Wenjin (CHN) 6, Abjhijit Kunte 6, S S Ganguly 6, Xu Jun (CHN) 6, Ju Zhao 6, Dao Thien Hai (VIE) 6, Al-Modiahki Mihamad (QAT) 6, Susanto Megaranto (INA) 6, Ni Hua 6, K Sasikiran 5.5, Koneru Humpy 5.5, Wang Hao (CHN) 5.5, Neelotpal Das 5.5, Kidambi Sundararajan 5.