Karthikeyan Third in Abu Dhabi, Completes Final GM Norm

Our Chess Correspondent/Abu Dhabi
Karthikeyan Third in Abu Dhabi, Completes Final GM Norm

Young Murali Karthikeyan finished a creditable third and earned his third and final Grandmaster norm after settling for a draw with Grandmaster Zahar Efimenkov of Ukraine in the ninth and final round of Abu Dhabi Masters that concluded here.

Registering a performance rating of 2709, the 15-year-old Karthikeyan had the best tiebreak score to back him and the young Indian now just needs to touch the 2500 ELO rating mark to become the next Grandmaster of the country.

In a bizarre turn of events the overnight joint leaders, Vidit Gujrathi and G N Gopal, lost their games to Yuriy Kuzubov of Ukraine and Tigran Petrosian of Armenia to end the Indian hopes of a title victory.

What had looked like a sureshot title a couple of days back with Karthikeyan, Gujrathi and Gopal holding the top three position, instead saw the Indian trio finishing third, fourth and fifth following losses suffered by Gujrathi and Gopal on the final day.

Kuzubov emerged as the winner on seven points after a late rally in the tournament while Petrosian had to be content with second place. It was a seven-way tie for the third spot and apart from the Indian trio, Sergey Volkov and Vladimir Burmakin of Russia, Viorel Iordachescu of Moldova and Efimenko made the cut.

Among other Indians in the fray, Vaibhav Suri did well to beat higher ranked Amin Baseem of Egypt in the final round, while Abhijeet Gupta also did some damage control to his rating by outplaying Adam Horvath of Hungary. Also coming out with a good result was International Master V AV Rajesh who overcame the challenge of highest rated local Grandmaster A R Salem Saleh.

Karthikeyan's Grandmaster norm was a mere formality as he had to just appear for the game to achieve the same. However the Chennai-boy continued with his excellent form to hold another big name in the game in Efimenko.

It was a Ruy Lopez exchange variation where Karthikeyan played white and did not give any chance to Efimenko in the subsequent endgame. The peace was signed in 35 moves.

Gujrathi fell prey to a tactical shot in the middle game after gaining a level position with black pieces. Losing a queen side pawn, the Indian never recovered and lost in 33 moves.

Gopal played white and he had the best chance to secure first place. However he too, went haywire as the complexities arose from a King pawn game and Petrosian pounced on his opportunity to reach a winning endgame.

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