Al Ain (UAE): Defending champion Grandmaster Abhijeet Gupta fought back after an insipid draw to beat compatriot Ankit Rajpara in the third round of the 3rd Al Ain Classic here.
On what turned out to be a difficult second round when he was held to a draw by Semetey Tologontegin of Kyrgyzstan, Abhijeet was subjected to another hard fought game in which he came up triumphs, thanks to some late mistakes by Rajpara.
Winner in this tournament last year, Gupta took his tally to 2.5 points out of a possible three and now shares the eighth spot behind seven co-leaders with a perfect score.
Second highest rated in the fray, Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi was lucky to get half a point from another compatriot Sahaj Grover. Playing the French defense, Gujrathi faced a side variation and won a pawn.
However, Grover put in his best trait, making the position complex and Gujrathi was looking at a lost endgame once the queens changed hands. It should have been easy pickings but Grover kept missing key moves to press home his advantage. The players eventually reached a complex looking endgame still clear better for Grover but he decided to play it safe and repeated moves. Both Gujrathi and Grover also inched themselves up to 2.5 points with six rounds still remaining.
Looking for a Grandmaster norm, Shardul Gagare kept himself in contention with another good result in the third round. In the second round, the cherubic-faced had crushed Grandmaster Constantin Lupulescu of Romania and followed it up with an easy draw with GM Vladimir Onischuk of Ukraine here.
With 2.5 points from three games, Gagare can really back himself for his second GM norm. Deep Sengupta is the other Indian on 2.5 points after dumping Amin Nasri of Iran in a fine game with black pieces. Sengupta, who finished second in the Indian championship ending just a day before the Classic, seems in fine form here.
Yuriy Kryvoruchko of Ukraine heads the seven leaders along with compatriots Yuriy Kuzubov and Mikhailo Oleksienko. Azerbaijani Ulvi Bajarani, Sergei Zhigalko of Belarus, Gaioz Nigaladze of Georgia and Tigran Petrosian of Armenia complete the leader's pack.
The Classic is a nine-round Swiss-tournament having 11000 USD as the first prize.