Grandmaster Krishnan Sasikiran shot into sole lead with an emphatic victory over local favourite Lars Schandorff in the sixth round of the 18th North Sea Cup International chess tournament in Edbjerg, Denmark.
Sasikiran took his tally to an impressive five points out of a possible six and is now followed by overnight joint leader Luke McShane of England, who drew his game with Lenier Dominiguez of Cuba to move to 4.5 points.
On a day that witnessed four decisive games out of five, top seed Alexey Dreev of Russia and Denmark's Curt Hansen registered smooth victories over Denmark's Peter Heine Nielsen and Poland's Michal Krasenkow respectively and remained within striking distance of Sasikiran and McShane tallying an identical four points from their six games.
The race for the title has virtually boiled down between these four with just three rounds remaining in this category-15 tournament. Dreev has to play his last three matches against Hansen, Sasikiran and McShane while Sasikiran has to tackle Hansen besides Nielsen and Dreev.
Schandorff, Krasenkow and Nielsen jointly hold the fifth spot while Dominiguez and his compatriot Bruzon Lazaro share the eighth position on two points apiece.
GM Koneru Humpy finally managed to break her losing streak, securing her first point in the tournament, scoring over a terribly off form Lazaro, who suffered his third loss on the trot.
For Sasikiran, it turned out to be another long and satisfying day in office. Playing with black pieces, the Chennai player had little problems in getting a double edged position with his compromising play in the early stages of the middle game.
Sensing trouble after Sasikiran effectively deployed pieces which netted him a passed pawn on the queenside, Schandorff went on an exchange spree in a bid to equalise.
However, that cost the Dane dearly as Sasikiran exerted pressure on the weak queen pawn and forcibly won it after the trade of queens. A long grind ensued thereafter where Schandorff had to face customary agony in the pawn-less endgame. It took Sasikiran 56 moves to register his third straight victory in the tournament.
Humpy finally opened her account in the tournament using Lazaro's blunder to her advantage. Lazaro himself has been struggling in the tournament after a good start and that gave Humpy a fair chance.
The opening had nothing for the Cuban who played black and Humpy got a balanced middle game without much ado. Lazaro made the decisive error on the 37th move and Humpy pounced on the opportunity to finish matters just two moves later.
Hansen was in his element against lacklustre play by Krasenkow in the opening. Fighting out a relatively less played variation of the Grunfeld with black, Krasenkow got into difficulties when his king was struck in the center against firing white pieces.
Hansen went for a quick onslaught that gave him the full point in just 22 moves.
Playing black, Dreev faced the Classical Variation against his Caro Kann defence and got a better endgame after Nielsen erred in exchanging pieces.
The white forces were soon pinned down to the defence of weak king side pawns while Dreev made foray on the queenside.
The game lasted 40 moves.
McShane played an uneventful draw with Dominiguez, lasting just 16 moves from a Ruy Lopez opening.
Results round 6: Lars Schandorff (2.5, Den) lost to K Sasikiran (5); Lenier Dominiguez (2, Cub) drew Luke McShane (4.5, Eng); Curt Hansen (4, Den) beat Michal Krasenkow (2.5, Pol); Peter Heine Nielsen (2.5, Den) lost to Alexey Dreev (4, Rus); Bruzon Lazaro (2, Cub) lost to Koneru Humpy (1).
Lars Schandorff v/s K Sasikiran: 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 a6 9. e4 c5 10. d5 Qc7 11. O-O c4 12. Bc2 Bc5 13. b3 Nb6 14. bxc4 Nxc4 15. Bd3 O-O 16. a4 b4 17. Bxc4 bxc3 18. Qd3 exd5 19. exd5 Re8 20. Ba3 Bf5 21. Qxf5 Bxa3 22. Bb3 Rab8 23. Bc2 Bc5 24. Rfe1 Qd6 25. Rxe8+ Rxe8 26. Re1 Rxe1+ 27. Nxe1 g6 28. Qf3 Bd4 29. g3 Kg7 30. Nd3 a5 31. Kg2 h5 32. h3 Qb6 33. Nf4 Be5 34. Nd3 Bd6 35. Qe3 Qxe3 36. fxe3 Nxd5 37. Kf3 f5 38. e4 Ne7 39. Nc1 Nc6 40. Ne2 Nb4 41. Bb3 fxe4+ 42. Kxe4 c2 43. Ke3 Be7 44. h4 g5 45. Kd2 gxh4 46. gxh4 Bxh4 47. Bxc2 Bg5+ 48. Kd1 Nxc2 49. Kxc2 h4 50. Ng1 Kf6 51. Kd3 Kf5 52. Ke2 Kg4 53. Nf3 Bf4 54. Nd4 h3 55. Kf1 Be3 56. Nc6 Kg3 white resigned.
Bruzon Lazaro v/s Koneru Humpy: 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. d4 b6 4. e3 Bb7 5. Bd3 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. b3 d5 8.Bb2 c5 9. Qe2 Nc6 10. Nbd2 Rc8 11. Rac1 cxd4 12. exd4 dxc4 13. bxc4 Re8 14. Rfd1 Bf8 15. Nf1 g6 16. Ne3 Bg7 17. Bc2 Qe7 18. Ba4 Red8 19. a3 Na5 20. Ne5 a6 21. Qe1 Nc6 22. Nxc6 Bxc6 23. Bb3 Ne4 24. Qe2 Bb7 25. f3 Nf6 26. Rb1 h5 27. a4 a5 28. Nc2 Ba6 29. Kh1 Nd5 30. Ra1 Bh6 1. Na3 Qb4 32. Qd3 Ne3 33. Rdc1 Nf5 34. Rd1 Qe7 35. g3 Bg7 36. Nc2 Qc7 37. g4 hxg4 38. fxg4 Nh4 39. Ne3 Bb7+ white resigned.