Zaozhuang (China): Grandmaster and Asian Champion, Parimarjan Negi came good with his white pieces to register a 2.5-1.5 victory against Rustam Khusnutdinov of Kazakhstan in the fifth round of the Asian Nations chess cup here on Tuesday.
The victory ensured that the Indian men kept pace with China-1, who also scored an identical victory over Vietnam. The two leaders now have nine match points out of a possible ten and enjoy two points lead over third placed China-2.
Kazakhstan is on fourth spot with six points in all.
In the women`s championship being organised simultaneously, the chances of an Indian medal improved significantly after the eves cruised home to a 3-1 victory over Indonesia.
D Harika struck form in a crucial first board encounter against Asian women`s champion Irine Sukandar Kharisma and the rest was easy for the girls despite a debacle on the third board where Mary Ann Gomes went down to A A Citra Dewi.
China-1 maintained two points lead with their fifth straight victory in this section from as many matches. With ten points in their bag, China-1 is solely followed by the Indian girls on eight points while China-3 stands third a full point adrift.
With four rounds still to come, China-1 is sitting pretty and Indians also look good to give them a run for money. To strive for gold, the Indians will have to come out firing on all cylinders when they meet China-1 in this section.
In the open section, Indians needed a win desperately and the knockout punch was provided by Negi who is playing his best chess recently.
Playing the white side of a Sicilian Dragon, Negi was in control right from the word go as he launched an offense through the central files and Khusnutdinov fell prey to some well disguised manoeuvres in mutual time pressure. The Kazakh called it a day when checkmate was inevitable.
On the first board, Sasikiran was held to a draw by Murtas Kazhgaleyev after an entertaining game. After initial skirmish Sasikiran had to mastermind a fine endgame where Kazhgaleyev could not make any progress despite having an extra queen.
P Harikrishna pressed hard for a victory on the second board against Anuar Ismagambetov but he could not make much progress against a solid defense. Down to the rook+knight versus rook endgame, Harikrishna tormented Ismagambetov well over a 100 moves before finally settling for a draw.
National Champion Abhijeet Gupta also conceded a draw to Kirill Kuderinov and dented his all-win record in the championship. Kuderinov was simply too safe with his white pieces and Gupta`s efforts in the endgame were in vain.
Complete results round 5 open (team points in bracket): India (9) beat Kazakhstan (6) 2.5-1.5; China-1 (9) beat Vietnam (5) 2.5-1.5; Iran (5) lost to China-2 (7) 1.5-2.5; Iraq (5) drew with Indonesia (5) 2-2; Singapore (3) lost to Mongolia (5) 1-3; Yemen (4) beat Hong Kong (2) 3-1; Chinese Taipei (0) lost to Korea (4) 0-4.
Indian results: K Sasikiran drew with Murtas Kazhgaleyev; Anuar Ismagambetov drew with P Harikrishna; Parimarjan Negi beat Rustam Khusnutdinov; Kirill Kuderinov drew with Abhijeet Gupta.
Women: Kazakhstan lost to China-1 (10) 0.5-3.5; Vietnam (3) lost to China-2 (6) 1.5-2.5; Mongolia (3) lost to China-3 (7) 0.5-3.5; Indonesia (4) lost to India (8) 1-3; Iran (5) lost to Singapore (2) 1-3.
Indian results: Irine Kharisma Sukandar lost to D Harika; Monica Sihite Chelsie lost to Eesha Karavade; A.A Citra Dewi beat Mary Ann Gomes; Rizka Aulia Virda lost to Padmini Rout.