Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam): Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi scored his sixth victory on the trot, disposing of Oliver Barbosa of Philippines to retain his half-point lead with just one round to go in the Asian individual chess championship, here.
National women`s champion Mary Ann Gomes raised vision of a rare Indian double when she defeated overnight leader Irine Sukandar Kharisma of Indonesia to jump to the sole lead in the women`s championship, being organised simultaneously.
If both Negi and Mary Ann hold their nerves in the final round on Sunday, it will be a rare Indian double.
Negi was outstanding in his effort. In the seventh round he made mince meat of higher-ranked Liren Ding of China and then in the eighth round Barbosa had no answers.
The victory took Negi to a commendable seven points out of a possible eight and a draw should be enough for him to win his maiden Asian title.
Mary Ann Gomes also had a perfect seventh round when she beat top seed Zhao Xue of China and then in eighth, in a must win situation, the Kolkata-based put it across Irine who had been leading the championship since day one.
Mary Ann, on 6.5 points, is a half point clear of Irine and she will have to put up her best in the final round as she takes on Tan Zhongyi of China, one of the feared opponents here. Negi task is much easier as he takes on Salem Saleh of UAE.
There are also hopes of one more medal for Indian as Eesha Karavade and Padmini Rout have both 5.5 points for the shared third spot. The stage is set up for a nail biting finish in this section.
Negi faced the Caro Kann defense and yet again proved the importance of understanding opening positions. With clinical precision, he worked on his ploy to attack the black king while keeping the black forces at bay.
Barbosa is known for his fighting qualities but on this day it all came a cropper. It was a picturesque finale when Negi threatened checkmate.
Mary Ann played the Reti opening and slowly outplayed Irine in the middle game. The Indonesian first allowed white to make progress on the king side and once she lost a pawn Mary made no mistakes and picked up her fourth win in a row.
The other Indians do not have much chance in the final round. National champion Abhijeet Gupta suffered his third defeat here which also means loss of important rating points. Interestingly, Gupta had been winning in all the three games that he lost here. Saturday was no exception when he threw away a win against Ma Qun of China.