Indian GMs Surya Sekhar Ganguly and Vishnu Prasanna share the lead with perfect 3 point slates after as many rounds of the $87,000 Asian Continental Championship at the Hilton Hotel in Al Ain, UAE. In the women’s division, 18-year-old WGM Aulia Medina Warda of Indonesia and Iranian WGM Atousa Pourkashiyan are tied for the lead with 3 points each. Ganguly, 32, 6-time Indian national champion from Kolkata and winner of the Asian Continental championship in 2009, used the Maroczy Bind against the Sicilian defense of GM Jahongir Vakhidov of Uzbekistan and won in a marathon 72 moves. Well known as one of the seconds in the team of former world champion Viswanthan Anand, Ganguly works as a Deputy Manager at the Indian Oil Corporation.

Vishnu Prasanna crushed the Caro Kann Defense of compatriot Lalith Babu. Prasanna penetrated with his Rooks on the open c-file and controlled the dark squares. He pried open the castled king with a Knight sacrifice and weaved a mating net with Queen and Bishop to force resignation on the 36th move. Prasnna, 26, hails from Chennai and works for the Airports Authority of India.

Three more Indians are in a group of eight, a half point behind the leaders, namely GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, Chanda Sandipan and Abhijeet Gupta. Tied with 2.5 points each in second slot are local hero Saleh A.R. Salem of the UAE, Chinese IM Lin Chen and IM Wang Chen and Iranians GM Idani Pouya and GM Darini Pouria.

Atousa Padmini
Atousa Pourkashiyan of Iran (left) vs. Padmini Rout of India

Gujrathi, 21, winner of the World Youth Under-14 in 2008, used the Gruenfeld Defense to beat GM Nguyen Duc Hoa of Vietnam in 34 moves. Gupta employed the Tartakower System against the Modern Defense of GM Marat Dzhumaev of Uzbekistan to win in 35 moves. Sandipan and Chinese IM Wang Chen drew in a marathon 100 moves of a Queen’s Gambit Declined. In the women’s division, three Indians follow a half point behind the leaders, namely WGM Soumya Swaminathan, WGM Mary Ann Gomes and IM Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman. Tied with them at 2.5 points each are WGM Dinara Saduakassova of Kazakhstan and WGM Zhang Xiaowen of China.

Pourkashiyan crushed the Sicilian defense of erstwhile leader Padmini Rout of India delivering checkmate on the 41st move. Aulia Medina Warda used the French Defense against Iran’s Raana Hakimifard to force resignation in 34 moves.

The event is organized by the Asian Chess Federation in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and UAE Chess Federation. Six tournaments are scheduled with a top prize of $11,000 for first place in the Men’s and $6,000 first prize in the women’s championship. Rapid chess and blitz tournaments are scheduled in both the men’s and women’s divisions with a total of $12,000 in cash prizes. Tournaments will be conducted as 9 round Swiss System events with cash prizes for the top 30 places.

The top five advance to the World Cup next month in Baku, Azerbaijan. The women’s champion shall represent Asia in the FIDE Women’s World Championship. Games are scheduled 3pm daily and are available for download in the official site with pairings in, livestream on youtube and pages on facebook and instagram.