Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly was back in the reckoning for a place amongst the prize winners after a hard-fought victory over Russian International Master Alexander Raetsky in the eighth round of the Masters' section of 15th Abu Dhabi International Chess festival.
IM-in-waiting Abhijeet Gupta's prospects of his maiden GM norm suffered a decisive setback as the 15-year-old went down fighting against GM Dmitry Bocharov of Russia.
With just one round remaining in the US $16400 prize-money tournament, GM Ashot Ananstesian of Armenia took another step forward for the coveted winner's trophy by defeating GM Alesej Aleksandrov of Belarus.
The Armenian took his tally to 6.5 points after the victory and emerged the sole leader. Ukrainian GM Alexander Goloshchapov (6 points) was pushed to sole second spot after he drew with top seed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan.
As many as six players occupy the fifth spot on 5.5 points while Ganguly and IM D V Prasad are next in line along with others on five points apiece.
For Ganguly, it turned out to be his second victory on the trot after losing two games in succession in round 5 and 6. The National champion was at his technical best in the endgame.
The opening was a Grunfeld Indian, in which Raetsky played white and achieved nothing when Ganguly outsmarted him.
With a routine pawn sacrifice in the middle game Ganguly ensured himself play all over the board and in trying to equalise Raetsky erred again to find himself in a slightly inferior endgame.
Ganguly was a picture of confidence once the rook and minor piece endgame arrived and slowly improved his position to first knock down a pawn and later marched his king to the heart of white's position to win another pawn for no counter play. Raetsky resigned after 67 moves.
Abhijeet Gupta was outdone by Bocharov in a Queen's Indian defense. Playing white the youngster failed to withheld the pressure his opponent created in the middle game and went down after opting for an erroneous plan.
Having struck form quite late in the event, Prasad drew with GM Konstantin Chernychov of Russia. The opening did not go well for the Indian as Chernyshov equalised easily in the
middle game arising out of a Pirc defense. Subsequent exchanges led to a drawn queen and pawns endgame in which the draw was a just result.
Amongst other Indians in the fray, Eesha Karavade did well to beat Mesgen Amanov of Turkmenistan while M B Muralidharan and Kruttika Nadig also scored resounding victories over Iran's E Momeni and Mahjoob Morteja respectively.
Parimarjan Negi drew with Turkan Mamedjarova of Azerbaijan, Akshat Khamparia scored over Toufighi Homayoon of Iran and Tania Sachdev drew with Meilis Annaberdiev of Turkmenistan.
Complete results round 8 (Indians unless specified):
Aleksej Aleksansdrov (Blr, 5.5) lost to Ashot Anastasian (Arm, 6.5); Alexander Goloshchapov (Ukr, 6) drew with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 5.5); Mikhail Kobalia (Rus, 5.5) drew with Saidali Iuldachev (Uzb, 5.5); Alexei Federov (Blr, 5.5) drew with Vladimir Potkin (Rus, 5.5); Ghaem Maghami Ehsan (I ri, 5) drew with Zeinab Mamedjarova (Aze, 5); Sergey Kayumov (Uzb, 5.5) beat Gadir Guseinov (Aze, 4.5); Abhijeet Gupta (4.5) lost to Dmitry Bocharov (Rus, 5.5); Evgeny Gleizerov (Rus, 5) drew with Rasul Ibrahimov (Aze, 5); D V Prasad (5) drew with Konstantin Chernyshov (Rus, 5). Alexander Raetsky (Rus, 4) lost to Surya Shekhar Ganguly (5); Pavel Kotsur (Kaz, 5) beat Atousa Pourkashiyan (Iri, 4); Elshan Moradiabadi (Iri, 4) lost to Sergey Grigoriants (Rus, 5); Al Sayed Mohamed (Qat, 4.5) drew with Vladimir Dobrov (Rus, 4.5); Sale Srdjan (Cro, 4) lost to Mikhail Ulibin (Rus, 5); Salem Ghuloom (Uae, 4) lost to Igors Rausis (Ban, 5); Himdan Maher (Egy, 3.5) lost to Sergey Volkov (Rus, 4.5); Safarli Eltaj (Aze, 4.5) beat Sergei Simonenko (Tkm, 3.5); Meilis Annaberdiev (Tkm, 4) drew with Tania Sachdev (4); Eesha Karavade (4.5) beat Mesgen Amanov (Tkm, 3.5); Igor Kursonov (Rus, 4) beat Al-T amimi Hamad (Qat, 3); Neboisa Illijin (Rom, 3) lost to Stefan Djuric (Scg, 4); Kruttika Nadig (4) beat Mahjoob Morteza (Iri, 3); Parimarjan Negi (3.5) drew with Turkan Mamedjarova (Aze, 3.5); A R Saleh Jasim (Uae, 4) beat Al-Sulaiti Ghanem (Qat, 3); Akshat Khamparia (4) beat Toufighi Homayoon (Iri, 3); Aryanejad Hossein (Iri, 3) drew with Oleg Boricsev (Hun, 3); E Momeni (Iri, 2.5) lost to M B Muralidharan (3.5); Adina-Maria Bogza (Rom, 3) drew with Shadi Paridar (Iri, 3); Faisal Abdulla (2.5) drew with Ghader Pour Shayesteh (Iri, 3); Amer Mohamed (Egy, 2.5) drew with Marwan Abdulwahab (Uae, 2.5).