Grandmaster Krishnan Sasikiran raised visions of a decent finish after a disastrous start when he bulldozed past Ashot Anastasian of Armenia in the seventh round of the Aeroflot International Open chess tournament in Moscow.
After scoring just half a point from his first three matches, the second highest rated Indian made a remarkable comeback. He has now garnered 3.5 points in the last four rounds.
However, a finish anywhere near the top bracket looks extremely difficult for any of the Indians as Russian Andrei Kharlov, continuing with his career-best performance, put it across compatriot Vladimir Malakhov and raced to six points from seven rounds.
With just two rounds to go in this USD 30,000 first prize tournament, Kharlov regained sole lead and is now followed by Emil Sutovsky of Israel and Sergey Volkov of Russia, both on 5.5 points.
A pack of five players including second seed Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine is right behind on 5 points while a bunch of 13 are next in line with 4.5 points apiece.
Sasikiran, on 4 points, is currently in joint 22nd spot and meets Chinese Bu Xiangzhi in the penultimate round.
National champion and Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly finally recorded his first victory, defeating former World women's championship finalist Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia.
Ganguly inched himself up to 3.5 points and can still figure in the prize list provided he does well in the next two games.
However, there seems little hope for GM Sandipan Chanda now as he once again split the point with Russian Dmitry Jakovenko.
With just 2.5 points so far after five draws and two losses, Chanda will be happy if he does not go win-less in this strongest open tournament of the world.
In the 'A2' section, GM Tejas Bakre succumbed to his second straight loss. The gainer was Oleg Aleshin of Russia who did well with white pieces.
International Master S Kidambi was quite impressive in his victory over Guliev Logman of Azerbaijan and so were young guns Parimarjan Negi and Tania Sachdev, who cruised past Ernesto Romero Fernandez of Spain and Weida Zhang of China respectively.
But the other Indian in the fray, Eesha Karavade could not hold her position together in tense moments and went down to Olav Sepp of Estonia.
The lead in this section is currently shared by Arsen Yegiazarian of Armenia, Sergey Zagerbelny of Uzbekistan and Russians Vladimir Potkin and Denis Khismatullin who all have 5.5 points.
In the 'B' group, IM Diensh Kumar Sharma drew his eighth round game with Sofya Zigangirova of Kazakhstan to move to 5 points.
Important results - Round 7 'A1' (Indians unless specified):
Alexander Motylev (Rus, 5) drew with Emil Sutovsky (Isr, 5.5); Andrei Kharlov (Rus, 6) beat Vladimir Malakhov (Rus, 4.5); Alexander Khalifman (Rus, 5) drew with Viktor Bologan (Mda, 5); Sergey Volkov (Rus, 5.5) beat Valerij Filippov (Rus, 4.5); Mikhail Kobalia (Rus, 4.5) drew with Etienne Bacrot (Fra, 4.5); Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr, 5) beat Ni Hua (Chn, 4); Vladimir Akopian (Arm, 4.5) drew with Alexander Riazantsev (Rus, 4.5); Pavel Eljanov (Ukr, 5) beat Wang Yue (Chn, 4); Zahar Efimenko (Ukr, 4) drew with Levon Aronian (Arm, 4); Konstantin Sakaev (Rus, 4.5) beat Alexey Fedorov (Blr, 3.5); Vita ly Tseshkovsky (Rus, 4.5) beat Pavel Smirnov (Rus, 3.5); Alexander Areshchenko (Ukr, 4.5) beat Artyom Timofeev (Rus, 3.5); Krishnan Sasikiran (4) beat Ashot Anastasian (Arm, 3.5); Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus, 2.5) lost to Surya Shekhar Ganguly (3.5); Sandipan Chanda (2.5) drew with Dmitry Jakovenko (Rus, 2.5).
Wang Hao (Chn, 5) lost to Vladimir Potkin (Rus, 5.5); Denis Khismatullin (Rus, 5.5) beat Ildar Khairullin (Rus, 4.5); Arsen Yegiazarian (Arm, 5.5) beat Vuacheslav Ikkonikov (Rus, 5.5); Evgeny Vorobiov (Rus, 5) drew with Davit Magalashvili (Geo, 5); Kostantin Lerner (Ukr, 5) drew with Rauf mamedov (Aze, 5); Anton Shomoev (Rus, 5) drew with LeonidYurtaev (Kgz, 5); Sergey Zagerbelny (Uzb, 5.5) beat Roman Ovetchkin (Rus, 4); Anton Filippov (Uzb, 4) lost to Sergei Dyachkov (Rus, 5); Manuel Perez Candelrio (Esp, 4.5) drew with Alexander Goloshchapov (Ukr, 4.5); Sergey Grigoriants (Rus, 5) beat Valeri Yandemirov (Rus, 4); Oleg Aleshin (Rus, 4.5) beat Tejas Bakre (3.5); S Kidambi (4) beat Guliev Logman (Aze, 3); Olav Sepp (Est, 3.5) beat Eesha Karavade (2.5); Parimarjan Negi (3.5) beat Ernesto Romero Fernandez (Esp, 2); Tania Sachdev (2.5) beat Weida Zhang (Chn, 1.5).