Fortune favours the brave goes the saying. On Friday, top seed and defending champion GM Nigel Short and untitled teenager Arghyadip Das decided to take the bull by the horns in the fifth round of the Commonwealth Chess Championship on Friday in Mumbai and came out triumphant.
Throwing caution to the wind, Short choose the risky Evan's Gambit, in which white gets into a slightly inferior position by sacrificing two pawns early for a crushing attack later, and established his superiority by outwitting overnight leader IM Abhijeet Gupta.
On the second board, Das recovered from a slightly inferior position with imaginative play to make short work of a 200 point rating difference and shocked Grand Master Surya Shekhar Ganguly, turning upside down all calculations. Ganguly, the highest ranked Indian here, was expected to be a strong challenger to British Grand Master Nigel Short and had come here hoping to dethrone the Englishman. But on what turned out to be Black Friday for the 23-year-old from Kolkata, Das made the most of his chances at the Eskay Resorts.
The sensational victory put Das at the top spot in the company of GM Short, who outwitted overnight sole leader IM Abhijeet Gupta to move up to 4.5 points. With two others players on 3.5 points registering victories on Friday, the top spot got crowded once again with four players clubbed together at 4.5 points. Sundararajan Kidambi and MR Venkatesh joined Short and Das at the top spot with comfortable wins. Kidambi outplayed WGM Harika Dronavalli while Venkatesh defeated C Praveen Kumar.
The top four were being chased by a pack of 13 players at the second spot with 4 points each while another big group was in hot pursuit at 3.5 points each. This pack includes, besides Ganguly, GM RB Ramesh, GM Abhijit Kunte, Bangladeshi GM Ziaur Rahman and WGM Nisha Mohota.
While Short wrested back the initiative at the top with a superb victory, Das hogged the limelight as he recovered from a slightly inferior position and was also helped by a blunder by his rival. Ganguly replied with Sicilian Defence and got some advantage in the opening but could not capitalise on it as Das sacrificed a rook for a knight to neutralise the advantage. Das then wrested initiative two moves later by getting the piece back and a pawn too. Though Ganguly was in an inferior position in the end game, he had counterplay chances and could have steered the game to draw. However, he committed a mistake and lost his queen on the 52nd move and resigned in that position.
Short, who was keeping a close watch on the nearby tables, too came up with some superb combinations to outwit Gupta. The Englishman sacrificed the pawns early and though Gupta negated his advantage somewhat by giving back one pawn. However, he committed a mistake in the middle game that set up a pawn roll through the centre for Short and the experienced GM pressed home his advantage to gain a full point.
Round 5 (Indians unless stated):
Nigel Short (ENG) (4.5) bt Abhijeet Gupta (4); Arghyadip Das (4.5) bt SS Ganguly (3.5); Praveen Thipsay (4) drew with Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury (4); Neelotpal Das (4) drew with Tejas Bakre (4); C Praveen Kumar (3.5) lost to MR Venkatesh (4.5); Sundararajan Kidambi (4.5) bt Dronavalli Harika (3.5); Sandipan Chanda (4) bt P Karthikeyan (3.5); Sai Srinivas (3) lost to Deepan Chakravarthy (4); SP Sethuraman (3.5) drew with RB Ramesh (3.5); Eesha Karavade (3) lost to Dibyendu Barua (4); Akshayraj Kore (3.5) drew with Nisha Mohota (3.5); Shashikant Kutwal (3) lost to S Arun Prasad (4); Tunveer MD Gillani (3) lost to GN Gopal (4); N Sudhakar Babu (4) bt G Rohit (3); Himanshu Sharma (3.5) drew with Akshat Khamparia (3.5); K Priyadharshan (3.5) drew with Swathi Ghate (3.5); Sai Meera (3.5) drew with Chandrashekhar Gokhale (3.5); S Meenakshi (4) bt S Weerawardane (SRI) (3); Narayanan Srinath (4) bt Prathmesh Mokal (3); Arjun Tiwari (2.5) lost to Ziaur Rahman (BAN) (3.5); Abhijit Kunte (3.5) bt Sriram Sarja (2.5); Wu Shaobin (3) drew with S Nitin (3); KV Shantharam (3) drew with Niaz Murshed (BAN) (3); S Vijayalakshmi (3.5) bt OT Anilkumar (2.5); MKA Russell (2.5) lost to Saptarshi Roy (3.5); S Satyapragyan (3) drew with Ravi Hegde (3); Padmini Rout (2.5) lost to GB Prakash (3.5).