Former world junior champion P Harikrishna took a decisive step towards his quest to lift the third Marx Gyorgy International Chess title after scoring a fine victory over defending champion Zoltan Almasi of Hungary in the eighth round in Paks, Hungary.
With his second victory over Almasi inside a week in this double round robin tournament, Harikrishna stretched his lead to a full point over nearest rival Grandmaster Zahar Efimenko of Ukraine who drew this eighth round game with Grandmaster Ferenc Berkes of Hungary.
As the other game of the eighth round between Wang Yue of China and Peter Acs of Hungary also petered out into a draw, Harikrishna's game was the only high point of this round of the category-15 event.
Harikrishna has now 5.5 points and is followed by Efimenko on 4.5 while Almasi and Wang Yue are now joint third with 4 points each in their kitty. Berkes stands fifth on 3.5 points while Acs is last on the list with 2.5 points. Just two rounds remain in this annual tournament.
The Indian came extremely well prepared and took the bull by its horns by going for the sharp Marshall gambit once again that netted him his second victory in the tournament -- the earlier one coming against Peter Acs in the first half.
It was a topical variation that Almasi went for with some new idea in mind but his plan was refuted by the wily Harikrishna over the board. The Hungarian sacrificed a rook for knight soon after the trade of queens in the early stages of the middle game and apparently had enough compensation in the form of his better control in the center.
However, as the game progressed, Harikrishna was in his element in keeping white's attacking bid at bay. Slowly but steadily, he improved his position on the king side to force some favourable exchanges.
In the endgame Almasi went for an erroneous plan and ended up a piece down after which it was child's play for Harirkishna who wrapped the issue in just 37 moves. This was Harikrishna's third victory in the tournament besides five draws and even two draws in the remaining games should now be enough for him to win this title.
The other two games of this round failed to evoke much interest among the spectators even though Wanvg Yue tried real hard to beat Acs in a King's Indian defence game. Playing white, Yue opted for the Samisch variation and had things under control in the middle game when Acs came up with a knight sacrifice to reach a difficult endgame.
However, with subsequent pawn exchanges the players arrived at a rook versus rook and Bishop endgame wherein the peace was signed after 101 moves.
Efimenko could not do much against a solid play by Berkes in a Sicilian Nazdorf game and the draw was agreed to after 31 moves.
Results - Round 8: Zahar Efimenko (Ukr, 4.5) drew with Ferenc Berkes (Hun, 3.5); Wang Yue (Chn, 4) drew with Peter Acs (Hun, 2.5); Zoltan Almasi (Hun, 4) lost to P Harikrishna (Ind, 5.5).
Standings after round 8: 1. Harikrishna 5.5; 2. Efimenko 4.5; 3-4. Yue, Almasi 4 each; 5. Berkes 3.5; 6. Acs 2.5.
The moves: (Zoltan Almasi v/s P Harikrishna)
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. d4 Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Re4 g5 16. Qf1 Qxf1+ 17. Kxf1 Bf5 18. Nd2 Rad8 19. f3 Bxe4 20. fxe4 Nc7 21. Kg2 c5 22. Nf3 h6 23. Be3 cxd4 24. Nxd4 Rfe8 25. Rf1 Rd7 26. Rf6 Rxe4 27. Kf3 Re5 28. Nf5 Ne8 29. Bxf7+ Rxf7 30. Nxh6+ Kg7 31. Rxf7+ Kxh6 32. b4 Be7 33. Bd4 Kg6 34. Rf4 Rf5 35. Rxf5 Kxf5 36. g4+ Ke6 37. Be3 Kd5 white resigned.