Grandmaster Krishnan Sasikiran guided Indian men to a creditable 2.5-1.5 victory over Germany in the 10th and penultimate round to stay in contention for a podium finish at the 41st Chess Olympiad here.
Sasikiran's 48-moves win against Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu not only raised visions of a best-ever Indian finish but also set the tone for what could be the first ever Olympiad medal for India.
Nisipeanu, an import from Romania in to the German team, was at sea with white pieces. Playing the Grunfeld, Sasikiran patiently outplayed his higher-rated opponent. It was a Bishop and pawn endgame wherein an extra pawn help the Indian garner full point.
At the top of the table, Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi held GM Arkadij Naiditsch to a draw with black pieces.
Negi was slightly off colour for major part of the game but continued to fight till he achieved what was the most important half point for India.
Playing the tournament of his life, Sethuraman held Georg Meier to a draw while on the fourth board, B Adhiban kept things under control before signing peace treaty with David Baramidze to complete the Indian victory.
With just one round to go, the Indian men find themselves elevated to a never-before joint third spot and the icing on the cake could be the fact that they are meeting Uzbekistan – a very beatable team – in the final round.
China, meanwhile, accounted for overnight joint leader France to regain the sole lead with 17 points.
Yu Yangyi produced the all-important decisive result in the game against Laurent Fressinet to make the score line 2.5–1.5 in favour of China while other three games were drawn.
Hungary, on 16 points, outwitted Romania 3-1 to jump to sole second spot while France, Ukraine, Russia, USA, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Poland are the teams giving company to India on 15 points sharing the third spot.
The luck of the draw has favoured the Indians in the last round as Poland meets China, Hungary has to clash with Ukraine, Russia meets a tough customer in France while Azerbaijan has to tackle the USA.
All these teams are almost evenly matched and a couple of tied results – coupled with an Indian victory over the Uzbeks will see the Indians right on the podium for the first time ever.
In the women's section, Indian eves drubbed Switzerland 3.5-0.5 to move to the joint 10th spot.
Dronavalli Harika defeated Monika Seps while IM Eesha Karavade and WGM Padmini Rout outwitted Gundula Heinatz and Laura Stoeri respectively.
Earlier in the day, Tania Sachdev shared half a point with Barbara Hund.
Among the Indian players, Padmini Rout has put in an exceptional performance scoring 7.5 points out of her eight games thus far. The youngster is in line for an individual gold for her performance on the fifth board.
At the top, Ukraine halted the dream run of Russians winning by a 2.5-0.5 margin in a grudge match. Russia, on 18 points, however still enjoys a crucial one point lead over China and Ukraine before the final round. MORE
China was held to a 2-2 draw by Spain. In the final round Russia takes on Bulgaria while China meets Ukraine. The Indian women are up against the Romanian after the final rest day.
Important Results (Round-10) Open: France (15) lost to China (17); Ukraine (15) drew with Azerbaijan (15); Hungary (16) beat Romania (14); Bulgaria (14) lost to Poland (15); USA (15) beat Argentina (13); Serbia (13) lost to Russia (15); Germany (13) lost to India (15); Netherlands (13) lost to Uzbekistan (15); Czech Republic (14) drew with Belarus (14); Vietnam (14) drew with Armenia (14).
Indian results: Arkadij Naiditsch drew with Parimarjan Negi; S P Sethuraman drew with Georg Meier; Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu lost to Krishnan Sasikiran; B Adhiban drew with David Baramidze.
Women: Ukraine (17) beat Russia (18); China (17) drew with Spain (15); Germany (16) beat Romania (14); Georgia (15) beat Poland (14); Kazakhstan (15) beat France (13); Slovakia (15) lost to Bulgaria (15); Croatia (13) lost to Armenia (15); Switzerland (12) lost to India (14); Czech Republic (14) beat Uzbekistan (12); Vietnam (12) lost to USA (14).
Indian results: Monica Seps lost to Dronavalli Harika; Tania Sachdev drew with Barbara Hund; Gundula Heinatz lost to Eesha Karavade; Padmini Rout beat Laura Stoeri.
Important Pairings (Final Round):
Open: Poland vs China; Hungary vs Ukraine; Russia vs France; Azerbaijan vs USA; India vs Uzbekistan.
Women : Russia vs Bulgaria; Ukraine vs China; Georgia vs Germany; Armenia vs Spain; Kazakhstan vs Czech Republic.