Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly fumbled under pressure and lost to Vitaly Bachin of Russia in the 12th and penultimate round of the World Junior chess championship now drawing to a close in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.
Grandmaster Pendyala Harikrishna too could not achieve the best result and had to settle for a draw with Ukrainian Alexander Zubov, who made a Grandmaster norm earlier in the event.
The lead position remained unchanged as top seed Shakriyaz Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan outsmarted Sergey Erenburg of Israel.
Mamedyarov took his tally to 9.5 points from 12 games played so far and is followed by another pre-tournament favourite Sergei Azarov (9) of Belarus.
With no player on 8.5 points, the race for the championship favours Mamedyarov tremendously provided he does not lose his last round game against Bachin.
Three players Vugar Gashimov of Azerbaijan, Erenburg and Bachin follow Azarov a full point behind while both the Indian Grandmasters Ganguly and Harikrishna alongwith surprise packet G Rohit are in a pack of seven players on 7.5 points apiece.
With a little luck either Ganguly or Harikrishna can still make it to the medal winners' list but they will have to depend on favourable results on other boards besides winning their final round games against Erenburg and Levan Pantsulaia of Georgia respectively.
International Woman Master Nana Dzagnidze stamped her authority in the girls' section with a 27-move draw against Maria Sergeeva of Kazakhstan in the 10th round game. Nana took her tally to an unassailable 9 points from 10 games and remains two points ahead of nearest contender Ekaterina Ubiennykh of Russia.
Dronavalli Harika remained in the hunt for a medal after drawing with higher rated Cristina Calotescu of Romania.
Harika shares the third spot with compatriot Asian junior girls' champion Tania Sachdev, Zeinab Mamedjarova of Azerbaijan and Calotescu. Both Harika and Tania have chances of attaining a medal should they win their final encounter.
The Indian hopes are also pinned on Eesha Karavade, who meets Nana in the last round. Harika plays Shukurova Meihriban of Azerbaijan while Tania will take on Zeinab Mamedjarova.
The tension took its toll on Ganguly, who had done very well in the initial stages of the event. A bronze medal winner in the event last year, Ganguly was hoping to do better and went all out for a victory against Bachin, who played black.
The opening was a Caro Kann defence and Ganguly treaded on thin ice by opting to sacrifice a pawn in the early middlegame and played excellently to recover it after the trade of Queens. However as the endgame approached, Bachin pushed his queenside pawns relentlessly and caught Ganguly off guard in a little tactical skirmish. The game lasted 52 moves.
Harika faced the Benoni set up and gained a definite advantage against Calotescu in the ensuing middlegame. However Calotescu managed to find some tactical complexities that proved dangerous for Harika. The Indian lost a pawn in trying to force matters but defended well thereafter to steer the game to a draw after 82 moves.
Tania made mincemeat of compatriot Saheli Nath in a Pirc defence game. Playing white, Tania got a substantial advantage thanks to lacklustre play by Saheli and exerted pressure on the queenside to net a pawn. Pieces got exchanged quickly and Tania had little trouble in converting her extra material in to a full point in 49 moves.
Results: Round 12 boys' (Indians unless specified):
Sergey Erneburg (8, Isr) lost to Shakhriyaz Mamedyarov (9.5, Aze); Kadir Guseinov (7.5, Aze) lost to Sergei Azarov (9, Blr); Surya Shekhar Ganguly (7.5) lost to Vitaly Bachin (8, Rus); Vugar Gashimov (8, Aze) beat Dimitros Mastrovasilis (7, Gre); Alexander Zubov (7.5, Ukr) drew P Harikrishna (7.5); Levan Pantsulaia (7.5, geo) beat Jatautis Donatas (6.5, Ltu); G Rohit (7.5) beat Jirka Jiri (6.5, Cze); Izoria Zviad (6.5, Geo) drew Christian Esplana (6.5, Per); Kritz Leonid (7, Ger) beat Giga Kuparadze (6, Ger); Rustem Sadykov (6, Kaz) lost to Kanep Meelis (7, Est); Safarli Eltaz (6.5, Aze) drew P Mahesh Chandran (6.5); Deepan Chakravarthy (6.5) beat Marcin Dziuba (5.5, Pol); S Arun Prasad (5.5) drew marco Pacheco (5.5, Per); Abhijeet Gupta (4.5) lost to Djakhangir Agaragimov (5.5, Aze).
Girls' round 10:
Maria Sergeeva (5.5, Kaz) drew Nana Dzagnidze (9, Geo); Ekaterina Ubiennykh (7, Rus) beat Zeinab Mamedjarova (6.5, Aze); D Harika (6.5) drew Cristina Calotescu (6.5, Rom); Tania Sachdev (6.5) beat Saheli Nath (5); Afag Khudaverdieva (5, Aze) lost to Eesha Karavade (6); Zehra Topel (5.5, Tur) drew Aytaj Ismailova (5.5, Aze); Makka Ioulia (5.5, Gre) beat Laman Rzaeva (4.5, Aze); Turkan Mamedjarova (5, Aze) beat Shahana Agaeva (4, Aze); Van Der Merwe, Cecile Henriette (5, RSA) beat Nowak Donika (3.5, Pol); Mahima Rajmohan (4) drew Melanie Verot (4, Fra).