Grandmaster-in-waiting Surya Shekhar Ganguly stole the thunder with a thumping victory over top seeded Grandmaster Bu Xiangzhi of China in the ninth round of the 41st World junior chess championship in Panaji, Goa, on Monday.
With draws being the order of the day, eight players share the lead with 6.5 points apiece after the ninth round.
India's Pendyala Harikrishna and Ganguly, Levon Aronian of Armenia, Luke McShane of England, Ferenc Berkes of Hungary, R Wojtasjek of Poland, and the Russian duo of Timofeev Artyom and Dimitry Jakovenko jointly share the first place.
Another superlative performance from the Indian perspective came from S Poobesh Anand, who scored his maiden International Master norm by defeating compatriot double GM-norm holder Sandipan Chanda. Poobesh, who now has six points, shares the joint ninth position along with Neelotpal Das and three others.
Playing against a Sicilian Dragon, with white pieces, Ganguly went for his pet Yugoslav attack and was surprised early as Bu deviated from the more popular variations.
Early in the middlegame, Ganguly opted for complications with a direct attack and Bu was forced to retaliate with a rook sacrifice that hung the game in balance. After the dust had settled, Ganguly was left with an extra pawn, having given up the rest of the material, and his Queen and Knight coordinated well to create mating threats.
With less than a minute left for both the players in the final stages of the game, Ganguly was the first to blunder when he missed a simple winning continuation but Bu failed to notice the mistake and his erroneous reaction turned the tide decisively in favour of the Indian. The game lasted 60 moves.
"I knew that he had something specially prepared as he never plays the Dragon, and according to him I went wrong early in the game but I must check that out. It was a very nice and hard-fought game otherwise," observed Ganguly.
Asked about his blunder in the last stages, Ganguly said, "Well these things happen in this kind of time control when you play the entire game in four hours. He was also left with less than a minute on his clock".
For Poobesh Anand too, it was a good day as Sandipan appeared completely off-form right through the game.
Opening with the Nimzo Indian with black pieces, Sandipan got into early troubles with dubious planning and his pieces were left stranded on the queenside as Poobesh uncorked a fine attack against the king. Sandipan had to part with an exchange and the rest was easy.
"I thought that a draw should be good result, but after his mistakes in the middlegame, I was pleasantly surprised and thought I must win, also this (IM) norm was an added bonus," said Poobesh after the game.
On the second board, Grandmaster Harikrishna had to sweat it out before drawing with Jakovenko, who played with white pieces. Harikrishna got a theoretically level position with his French defence but his position remained passive in the Winawer variation till such time he initiated his counterplay bid on the queenside with a pawn sacrifice.
The pieces were exchanged at regular intervals thereafter and the peace treaty was signed in the Queen and minor piece endgame.
The top board game between Levon Aronian of Armenia and Timofeev Artyom of Russia was not a long one as Aronian, playing with white pieces, realised quite early that his English opening would not yield a desirable advantage.