Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam): Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi won the Asian continental chess championship despite losing to A R Saleh Salem of UAE in the final round that concluded here.
Negi finished the tournament on 7 points and was tied for first place along with Yu Yangyi of China. But in their direct encounter earlier in the championship, Negi had beaten Yangyi, which helped him win the gold medal.
It was a shocker for Negi in the last round as he misplayed a level position against Saleh from a Slav defense game. The middle game was intense after Saleh sacrificed a rook for a knight but the computer analysis suggested that it was an easy draw for Negi who lost his nerves.
It was a day of heartbreaks for the other Indians. Mary Ann Gomes spoilt her chances of the gold medal in the women`s champion for which a draw was enough against Tan Zhongyi of China. The Kolkata-based instead lost from a balanced middle game and could only finish on 2nd spot with her best tiebreak.
The Indian`s hopes of a rare double did not materialise but it was nevertheless a remarkable performance from Mary Ann who has been in her best form lately.
Ending on the wrong side was Eesha Karavade who misplayed a completely winning position against eventual winner Irine Sukandar Kharisma of Indonesia. Kharisma won from a hopeless endgame which, on another day, Eesha could have won against any strong opponent.
For the record, Yangyi finished second, repeating his performance from last year and the third spot was bagged by Saleh on 6.5 points. In the women`s section, Tan Zhongyi finished third.
Negi was at his best throughout barring the last round where nerves played some part. Thankfully for him, nothing was spoiled despite the loss as he added another feather to his cap.
Seven wins and two losses was his eventual finish which says a lot about uncompromising play in the days when draw is considered a just result almost any day.
Mary Ann Gomes had a sedate start but finished exceedingly well. Scoring five wins in a row she almost had the gold in her bag before the nasty slip.
Amongst other Indians in the fray, national champion Abhijeet Gupta lost another game. M R Venkatesh and Vidit Gujarathi also could not complete their final grandmaster norms and will have to wait till the next event to be in the elite circles.
The Indian bigwigs, Negi, Gupta and G N Gopal proceed to China from here to take part in the Asian team championship. Amongst the women, Tania Sachdev, Mary Ann and Eesha have to do the same.