GM Saleh A.R. Salem of the UAE (right) and GM Abhijeet Gupta of India (below) beat their respective 7th round opponents to barge into a three-way tie for the lead with GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly of India at 5.5 points each in the homestretch of the $87,000 Asian Continental Chess Championships 2015 at the Hilton Hotel in Al Ain, UAE.
Seven players follow a half point behind in the battle for five slots in the next stage of the World Chess Championship cycle. Tied at 5 points each are top seed GM Le Quang Liem and second seed GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son of Vietnam, Indian GMs Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, Krishnan Sasikiran and Deep Sengupta, and IM Lin Chen and GM Zhou Jianchao of China.
In the women`s division, WGM Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman of India used the King`s Indian Defense to beat erstwhile co-leader WIM Mitra Hejazipour of Iran, threatening mate on the 62nd move. The six-time Indian national woman champion grabbed solo lead with 6 points. Three players are a half point behind in the race for the right to represent Asia in the Women`s World Chess Championship. Tied at 5.5 points each are Mary Ann Gomez of India, Chinese IM Shen Yang and WGM Dinara Saduakassova of Kazakhstan.
Salem crushed the Bogo-Indian defense of GM S.P. Sethuraman of India in 41 moves. The Emirati GM sacrificed a Bishop on the 30th move to weave a mating net with his Queen and Rook against the castled King. Gupta, 26, smashed the Slav Defense of erstwhile co-leader Lin Chen of China in 57 moves. The Indian GM, who was 2008 World Junior Champion, gained a pawn on the 33rd move in the transition to the Queen and pawn endgame and was certain to achieve pawn promotion when the Chinese resigned.
In this position, Sethuraman had just played 29 …c3. Salem sacrificed the Bishop and went on the attack with 30. Qd3 cxb2 31. Qxh7+ Kf7 32. Rd1 Rh8 33. dxe6+ Rxe6 34. Qxh8 Rxe5 35. Nxe5+ Qxe5 36. Qd8 Bf5 37. Bb3+ Kg6 38. Qxb6+ Kh7 39. Ba2 Qe2 40. Qd8 Be1 41. Qh4+ 1-0
In the other match among leaders, Ganguly and Le Quang Liem drew in 55 moves of a Semi Slav defense with only two kings left on the board. Nine players follow with 4.5 points each in the fight for cash prizes for the first 30 places.
Two rounds are left in the 9-round Swiss system tournament. In the penultimate round 8, Gupta and Ganguly face off while Salem plays Ngoc Truong Son. Vijayalakshmi battles with compatriot WGM Mary Ann Gomes.
Live running commentary by GM Tahir Vakhidov and WGM Zhang Jilin is available on Youtube.