Jha maintains sole lead

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Overnight leader IM Sriram Jha of LIC carried forward his half point lead to the final round.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:04 IST
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Overnight leader IM Sriram Jha of LIC carried forward his half point lead to the final round after settling for a quick draw with IM-norm holder Abhijeet Gupta of Rajasthan in the 12th and penultimate round of the 42nd National 'B' Chess Championship here today. Jha, who topped the table with 9.5 points, was ahead of a pack of 8 players, including International Masters S Kidambi and M R Venkatesh of Petroleum Sports Promotion Board, IM Prathamesh Mokal of Bank Sports Board, Women-Grandmaster- in-waiting Dronavalli Harika of Andhra Pradesh, IM Rahul Shetty of Indian Airlines, Saptarshi Roy of Goodricke National Chess Academy, Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury of West Bengal and Abhijeet Gupta, having nine points each. With just one more round to go, 17 hopefuls are sitting pretty at 8.5 points to stake claims for a berth in the National 'A' championship to be held later this year. Prominent among them are top seeded Grandmaster R B Ramesh of PSPB and his teammate double GM-norm holder D V Prasad and P Konguvel. The top boards, as expected, drew their games with no one wanting to risk their qualification and winding up the matter in less than five minutes. Harika drew with Kidambi and Mokal signed the peace with Venkatesh. However, there was much action on the lower boards and those making merry were Rahul Shetty, Sapatarshi Roy and Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury. The youngest of the top board contenders, Sapatarshi Roy downed his formidable opponent in triple GM-norm holder G B Prakash of Bank Sports Board while Rahul Shetty and Chowdhury accounted for Jharkhand's IM N K Mishra and Swaraj Palit respectively. Saptarshi Roy had missed the qualificaion by whiskers in the previous two years but this time it appears that he has done his homework better. Playing black against Prakash, Roy went for the Benko gambit and got the bishop pair advantage in the middle game. Prakash underestimated the potential of black pieces and erred by going for a king side attack to be soon under firing line as Roy deployed his pieces correctly to get himself winning position. Shetty defeated Mishra in a fine positional battle arising out of a Sicilian defence where the former played white. The middle game witessed Mishra saddled with a bad bishop and Shetty conveniently transformed into a won endgame, claiming a pawn enroute. The game lasted 67 moves. Chowdhury struggled for some time against Palit but soon got into the groove in another Sicilan defence game of the day. Palit overlooked a simple tactical trick in the middle game and there was no respite for him thereafter. (PTI)

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