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The Indian men rose to the occasion and snatched the lead from Vietnam after beating them 3-1 in the ninth and penultimate round of the Asian Team Chess Championship in Isfahan, Iran on Tuesday.
After some mixed results throughout the championship, the Indian players performed when it mattered the most, thanks to the efforts of national champion and Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly and GM Sandipan Chanda on the second and fourth board respectively.
While Ganguly scored a fine victory over GM Nguyen Anh Dung, Chanda proved much stronger for teenager Le Quang Liem.
On the top board for India, GM Krishnan Sasikiran drew easily as black against Dao Thein Hai, while on the third International Master S Kidambi held GM Nguyen Ngoc Truongson to get the team the much-needed victory.
With just one round remaining, the top-seeded Indians emerged as sole leaders on 27.5 points and are now virtually assured of the title in the six-team double round robin event.
Vietnam is placed second on 26 points while Iran A is a distant fourth on 24.5 points. The fourth places are held by Iran B on 15, Turkmenistan is next in line on 11 while Afghanistan is firmly in the cellar on 4 points.
In the next round, Indians will take on Iran B and a 2-2 draw should be enough for them to win the championship for the first time.
In the women's event being organised simultaneously, the Indian eves did well again to beat Iran A by a 2.5-0.5 margin but were joined by Vietnam at the top of the tables after the latter cruised to a 3-0 victory over Iran B after the fifth and penultimate round.
Both Vietnam and India have nine points apiece now and the final round will determine the winner in this section.
Both Iranian teams are on 6 points apiece. In the final round, the Indian eves will clash with Iran B, while Vietnam will have to battle it out against Iran A.
Earlier in the eighth round of men's section, the Indians had comprehensively beaten Turkmenistan 3.5-0.5 to bolster their chances.
This was India's second identical victory against Turkmenistan giving an indication of the difference in strength of the two.
Sasikiran completed a double rout over Amanmurad Kakgeldyev on the top board with a crushing victory on board one while Kidambi and Chanda did the needful on board three and four. The form of Abhijit Kunte, however, remained a cause of concern for the Indians as the former British champion was held by Sergei Simonenko. Understandably, Kunte was dropped for the match against Vietnam.
In other matches, Iran A beat Afghanistan 4-0, while Vietnam had dropped a full point enrounte to a 3-1 victory over Iran B.
Complete results - Round 9 (team points in bracket, final score in the end):
Iran B (15) beat Afghanistan 2.5-1.5: Ardeshi Mehrdad beat Asefi Zaheeruddeen; Sharbaf Mohsen drew with Fidaeyee Habibullah; Toufighi Homayoon drew with Farazi Khaiber; Soleimani Shantiya drew with Sarway Hamidullah;
Vietnam (26) lost to India 1-3: Dao Thien Hai drew with Krishnan Sasikiran; Surya Shekhar Ganguly beat Nguyen Anh Dung; Nguyen Ngoc Truongson drew with S Kidambi; Sandipan Chanda beat Le Quang Liem
Turkmenistan (11) lost to Iran A (24.5) 0.5-3.5: Amanmurad Kakageldyev lost to Ghaem Maghami Ehsan; Elshan Moradiabadi beat Sergei Simonenko; Amanov Mesgen drew with Darban Morteza; Khaghani Mehdi beat Bayramsahatov Serdar
Women results - Round 5:
Iran B (6) lost to Vietnam (9) 0-3: Navabi Shirin lost to Nguyen Thi Thanh An; Le Thanh Tu beat Salman Mahini Mona; Hejazipour Mitra lost to Hoang Thi Bao
Team Iran A (6) lost to India (9) 0.5-2.5: Shadi Paridar lost to Nisha Mohota; Mary Ann Gomes drew with Atousa Pourkashiyan; G Pour Shayesteh lost to Swati Ghate
Round 8: (Men)
Afganistan lost to Iran A 0-4: Zaheeruddeen lost to Maghami; Moradiabadi beat Habibullah; Khaiber lost to Morteza; Khaghani Mehdi beat Hamidullah
India beat Turkmenistan 3.5-0.5: Sasikiran beat Kakageldyev; Simonenko drew with Kunte; Kidambi beat Mesgen; Serdar lost to Chanda (2272) 1-0.
Iran B lost to Vietnam 1-3: Ardeshi Mehrdad drew with Hai; Dung drew with Mohsen; Naser lost to Truongson; Le Quang Liem beat Homayoon.
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