CHENNAI: When the draw for the Chess World Cup was finalised, India had realistic hopes of only one slot in the second round.
But when the mini-match of the first round got over on Monday at Khanty-Mansyisk, all the three Indians advanced without even going into the tiebreaker.
Of course, Parimarjan Negi was lucky that he did not have to make even a single move to take his place in the next round, but Pentala Harikrishna and Abhijeet Gupta, both former world junior champions, gave a good account of themselves while crushing Maxim Rodshtein of Israel and Rauf Mamedov of Azerbaijan respectively.
Hari was in fluent form on Monday and continued from where he left off in the first game. Rodshtein, one of the most talented youngsters in world chess, having got calls from Levon Aronian and Boris Gelfand, to work with them as seconds, found the going tough early in Catalan Opening and could not press for win with black.
Around move 25, the game was already in its endgame phase and soon Hari won a pawn to steer the position to a rook and pawn ending. The Israeli tried to push for win but there was nothing he could do as the Indian handled the ending efficiently and looked set for a second win.
But the Israeli found a stalemate by sacrificing his rook after 60 moves.
Abhijeet Gupta, who had his chances in the first game with white, squeezed Mamedov with the dark coloured pieces in the second game.
With French Defence, Gupta won a pawn in the middle game and reached a knight versus bishop ending where he had a passed pawn in the centre and a set of connected pawns on the queenside. Unable to stop the pawn surge with his knight, Mamedov gave up after 47 moves.
Negi, who got a walkover from Vladimir Akopian of Armenia, will meet No 7 seed Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan in the second round.
Harikrishna meets No 10 seed Dmitry Jakovenko of Russia while Abhijeet Gupta runs into giant-killer Samuel Shankland of USA.
The long-awaited return of GM Peter Leko to big time chess ended in agony for the Hungarian. Samuel Shankland, rated 200 points below the Hungarian, defeated him with black in the first game and drew with white.
GM Alexander Fier of Brazil showed no mercy to 2700-club member GM Wang Yue of China. In game 1, an opening that went wrong for the Chinese, was swiftly punished by the Brazilian who drew his second game for a 1.5-0.5 result.