Ningbo, China: Grandmaster and Asian champion P Harikrishna proved his mettle by guiding India to a much-needed 2.5-1.5 victory over Israel in the fourth round of the World Team Chess Championship.
Harikrishna outclassed Emil Sutovsky. After a sedate start with three draws on the trot, und of Harikrishna reserved his best for the match against Israel as he came up with a stupendous effort in a seemingly drawn endgame to win the decisive game in the match.
The Indians drew the remaining three boards to register their first victory in world`s premier team event.
Krishnan Sasikiran also raised visions of a victory on the second board against Michael Roiz but this one was drawn.
After two successive losses, Surya Shekhar Ganguly held on to his own against Ilya Smirin on the third, while a marathon game between G N Gopal and Tamir Nabaty also ended in a draw after 118 moves.
Meanwhile, at the top of the tables, Azerbaijan caused the biggest flutter in the tournament defeating holders Russia by a 3-1 margin. It turned out to be a comprehensive victory for Azerbaijan as they won with white pieces and drew as black on both the boards. The victories were achieved by Vugar black Gashimov who scored over Alexander Grischuk and Gadir Guseinov who got the better of Peter Svidler.
Russia`s loss turned out to be Armenia`s gain after they effortlessly drubbed Egypt 3.5-0.5 to take their tally to six points out of a possible eight.
Russia slipped to joint second spot on five points and x they now share it with Azerbaijan, China and Hungary. Ukraine and Israel share the sixth spot on four points apiece while e India has now inched up to joint eighth spot along with United States on three points. Egypt, without a score, remains at the last spot.
On a day of upsets, Hungary was aided by top player Peter Leko in registering a 2.5-1.5 victory against Ukraine. Lekoer defeated Vassily Ivanchuk on the top board while the remaining three games ended in draws.
In the other match of the day, China scored a fantastic g victory over the United States, conceding just a draw in four games.
For India`s cause, Harikrishna and Sasikiran had to fire and they did so perfectly. Harikrishna is a renowned endgame expert and he proved that yet again by outwitting his opponent in a queen-less position. Sutovsky went for the main variation in the Berlin defense but exchanges at regular intervals did not yield the desired results.
Harikrishna systematically removed his structural weakness and weakened white`s pawn structure on the king side in the rook and minor piece endgame. It would have taken a machine to play perfectly thereon and Sutovsky is not one. Harikrishna showed precise technique in getting a passed pawn on the queen side and romped home in style.
Sasikiran tried to win with white pieces but Michael Roiz put up a stiff defense. The other two boards only needed to draw and Ganguly did that first with black against Smirin, reaching the deadlock in a rook and pawns endgame, while Gopal had to fight till the very end.
With five rounds still to come, the Indian men take on United States in the next one.