International Master Neelotpal Das kept the Indian flag afloat by forcing a draw with Grandmaster Hua Ni of China to take his tally to 3.5 points and stay in joint lead in the fifth Asian Chess championship at the KVBR indoor stadium in Hyderabad on Sunday.
Top seeded Grandmaster Krishnan Sasikiran split the point with GM Orazly Annageldyev of Turkmenistan to take his tally to 2.5 points while GM Koneru Humpy outplayed GM Karen Grigoryan (TKM) to leap to three points from four games and keep her title hopes alive.
Neelotpal Das tamed his higher rated opponent in the Nagdorf variation of Sicilian defence and played a closed game. He thwarted a game plan of his opponent, who desperately needed a win to be in the top slot, by employing swift moves and providing space to his pieces.
After failing to make any headaway, Hua offered truce, which Neelotpal gracefully accepted to remain in the elite company of Hai Dao Thien (VIE), Zhang Zhong (VHN) and Hao Wang (CHN) with 3.5 points each.
On the top board, Hai Dao Thien and Zhang Zhong agreed for a quick draw after just seven moves as both the players remained on top with three points each.
Sasikiran, playing white with King's opening, could not force any result as the game progressed in copybook style. The peace pact was signed after 22 moves with both the players being evenly poised with material and movement.
Koneru Humpy offered the Queen's Gambit, which was declined by her opponent Karen and the Grandaster from Vijaywada played for a win and succeeded.
Among other results, Himanshu Sharma defeated Taleb Moussa (UAE) while Tejas Bakre lost to Meilis Annaberdiev (TKM) and Saptarshi Roy Choudhry lost to Rui Wang (CHN).
After a good beginning with two wins, Lanka Ravi lost two on the trot, while Sandipan Chanda defeated fellow Indian G Rohit.
R B Ramesh outplayed Parikh Valay and Vishal Sareen defeated Deepan Chakravarthy while K Dinesh Sharma drew with MR Benkatesh and PDS Girinath lost to Morteza Mahjoo (IRI).
D Harika registered her first win of the tournament, defeating A Lahiri.