GM Gopal guides India to healthy lead

New Delhi: Grandmaster G N Gopal beat Israel`s Tal Baron 4-0 to guide India to an emphatic 9.5-6.5 triumph over the visitors in the first round of the India-Israel Chess match currently underway at AAI Officers Club here.

It was, however, a disappointing second day for GM Krishnan Sasikiran and national champion Abhijeet Gupta, however, that did not prove a deterrent for Gopal as he emerged victorious in all the three formats of the game -- blindfold, rapid and blitz.

Indian team started with a 3-1 triumph in the blindfold category with Sasikiran breaking through Yadael Stapek and Gopal coming good against Tal Baron.

Abhijeet was held to a draw by Vitaly Golod, while Adhiban was forced to split the point against Gil Popliski on the fourth board.

In the rapid round top Israeli Ilya Smirin was back on the top board and drew with Sasikiran while Gupta was in for a shock as he lost to Golod.

However, Gopal and Adhiban saved the blushes for Indians on the last two boards, helping the hosts to finish with 2.5-1.5 lead over the visitors.

The Israeli team showed their mettle in the first blitz match beating Sasikiran and Abhijeet Gupta and giving the visitors an upper hand in the category with a minimal margin.

In the last blitz of first round, the Indians bounced back to register a victory thanks to the efforts of Gopal, who was the lone winner besides three draws.

While Sasikiran had a 50 per cent score, Abhijeet`s form might be a concern for the hosts as he could muster just one point out of the four games in the first round.

Adhiban, meanwhile, scored 2.5 points.

With the match ending on Wednesday, Indians remain firm favourites to annex the title barring a big comeback by the Israelis.

The match, which is being organised as a curtain raiser to the next world championship match between V Anand and Boris Gelfand of Israel, will feature 32 games on the concluding day including eight blindfold, eight rapid and sixteen blitz games.