Indian girls P V Nandhidhaa and Cholleti Sahajasri hogged the limelight, outwitting second seed candidate master Bhakti Kulkarni and WFM Hejazipour Mitra (Iran) respectively in the second round of the Asian Junior Chess Championship in Chennai on Wednesday.
Thirteen boys and eight girls share the lead with two points. Nandhidhaa scored over Bhakti Kulkarni with the black pieces in a a Queens' Indian set-up.
Bhakti played a couple of passive moves and allowed Nandhidhaa's pieces to infiltrate her camp. On the 31st move, Nandhidhaa played a tricky Knight move which won a piece. Two moves later, Bhakti resigned in a hopeless position and allowed Nandhidhaa to move to two full points and share the lead. In the adjacent table, Cholleti Sahajasri was a shade lucky in her upset win over WFM Hejazipour Mitra. Sahajasri was at the receiving end of a big attack and even lost an exchange. But on the 39th and 40th moves, her higher rated rival, Hejazipour Mitra lost track of the position and made mistakes. Sahajasri immediately launched a vicious counterattack and netted the full point.
Yet another upset was witnessed on the fifth board when young Pratyusha Bodda outplayed compatriot WFM Pon N Krithika. In an open position, Pon Krithika appeared to launch a dangerous attack against the Black King. Pratyusha cleverly exchanged queens and a couple of minor pieces to outplay her opponent in a Rook ending.
On the top table, young Mohanapriya played a solid game to hold the top seed and defending champion WIM Padmini Rout to a draw in a Grunfeld defence. Akshaya held WIM Shalmali Gagare to a draw on the fourth table. In the open category for boys, it was a smooth sailing for the big guns.
While Adhiban ground down Arun Karthik in a Spanish game in 79 moves, defending champion Ashwin Jayaram scored a smooth win over upcoming youngster G V Saikrishna in a Kings' Indian game. CRG Krishna scored over his higher rated rival from Iran, Darini Pouria.
There were some fighting draws from the sixth to ninth tables with the lesser rated Indian players holding their own against their higher rated compatriots.
Among the thirteen boys who are in the lead, apart from FM Akkozov Berik of Kazakhstan, the rest are all Indians, while in the girls category though, among the six leaders, there are two foreign players, WFM Tay Li Jin Jeslin of Singapore and Vo Thi Kim Phung of Vietnam.