Kavala: Former world junior champion Grandmaster Abhijeet Gupta outclassed GM Andrey Rychagov of Russia to lead the field with Adam Tukhaev of Ukraine after the end of the eighth and penultimate round of the Kavala International Open Chess tournament here.
The fifth victory in the tournament with white pieces also proved crucial for Abhijeet in terms of ELO ratings as the Indian star crossed the 2600 rating barrier in live ratings for the first time in his career. Should the trend continue, Abhijeet will be the ninth Indian from India to breach the coveted rating mark.
Tejas Bakre`s dream run came to an stunning end as he misplayed a promising position against top seed Grandmaster Gabriel Sargissian of Armenia. Tejas, who was floated down, suffered his first loss since February in any classical game and this was more damaging as he also lost the chance to catch with the leaders after a splendid performance till the start of the eighth round.
Tukhaev on the other hand made sure he will be amongst leaders after he took a quick draw with Nidjat Mamedov of Azerbaijan. Both Tukhaev and Abhijeet have 6.5 points and final round will determine the winner.
The other big Indian hope in the tournament is D Harika who inched closer to her second Grandmaster norm. Harika took her tally to 5.5 points out of a possible eight and now needs just a draw to complete the feat from her final game.
For the second day running, Abhijeet stole the limelight with another clinical effort. The Catalan Opening is a recent addition in the repertoire of the BPCL employee and this time it held him in good stead.
Abhijeet got a slight advantage with his better placed pieces and then waited patiently for Rychagov to err. It eventually happened when Rychagov strove to find some activity for his pieces and Abhijeet did not give any chance. It was a treat to watch the Indian part with a rook for Bishop and it was checkmate soon after.
Harika took it safe knowing fully well that she is now within striking distance of the norm. The English defense by her opponent startled her initially but Harika recovered soon after to ensure parity.
Vishnu Prasanna made his third and final International Master norm after holding compatriot GM Deepan Chakkravarthy to a quick and easy draw. Prasanna will now need to touch the 2400 ELO rating mark to become the next International Master of the country.