Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly continued on his dream run and cruised past former Russian champion Alexander Motylev in the second round of Aeroflot International chess tournament in Moscow on Friday.
Ganguly's victory saved the blushes on what turned out to be a tough day for the Indians in the premier section of the strongest open event in the world.
Much to his dismay, second seed Krishnan Sasikiran suffered a shock defeat at the hands of little known International Master Igor Lysyi of Russia and P Harikrishna miscalculated his chances against local hopeful Valerij Popov and went down after a tactical battle.
Also ending on the losing side was world's youngest Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi, who found a tough customer in Wang Hao of China while S Vijayalakshmi proved no match for another Russian, Evgeny Tomashevsky.
Apart from Ganguly, only women's GM Dronavalli Harika managed to hold forth, holding the highly regarded Darmen Sadvakasov of Kazakhstan after an intense game.
Shortly after accounting for Alexander Areshchenko of Ukraine in the opening round, Ganguly came all fired up once again and delivered the goods for the second day running against a higher-rated opponent.
The Indian emerged as one of the seven leaders coming in to the third with two points from as many games.
The biggest surprise among the leading group is 12-year old Chinese wonder girl Hou Yifan, who impressed everyone with a scintillating victory over former European and World junior champion Emil Sutovsky of Israel.
While Yifan hogged the limelight, Ganguly's effort was no less praiseworthy as it was sheer hard work in a French defense game that paid high dividends.
Playing the white side of a Winawer variation, Ganguly masterminded a fine positional plan in the middle game to retain his miniscule advantage and had to wait for over five hours before the Russian finally succumbed to the pressure.
Harika treaded on thin ice for quite some time against Sadvakasov but her ability to continue the game nonchalantly in difficult situation came in handy against the experience of the Kazakh.
The opening was a Nimzo Indian defense where Harika played white and suffered with her King stranded in the center for the major part of the game. However, there were no clear winning plans for Sadvakasov and he could not find anything better than liquidating to a drawn endgame.
It turned out to be a forgettable day for last year's joint winner Sasikiran, who failed to convert an advantageous position against Lysyi and went down after a series of erroneous manoeuvres.
Starting with the Grunfeld defense, Sasikiran was just better after the opening itself and in his own words the tendency of not allowing a shred of counter play did not come good.
Harikrishna missed out on favourable complication against Popov while Parimarjan missed a few drawing opportunities before going down to Wang Hao.
Seven rounds still remain in the US $100,000 prize-money tournament.
Results, round 2 (Indians unless specified):
A1: Surya Shekhar Ganguly (2) beat Alexander Motylev (Rus, 1); S Vijayalakshmi (1) lost to Evgeny Tomashevsky (Rus, 2); D Harika (1.5) drew with Darmen Sadvakasov (Kaz, 1.5); Igor Lysyj (Rus, 1.5) beat Krishnan Sasikiran (0.5); P Harikrishna (0.5) lost to Valerij Popov (Rus, 1.5); Parimarjan Negi (0.5) lost to Wang Hao (Chn, 1.5).
A2: Safin Shukhrat (Uzb, 2) beat Abhijit Kunte (1); Yuri Balashov (Rus, 1) lost to Deepan Chakkravarthy (2); Alexander Zubarev (Rus, 1) drew with G N Gopal (1); Reggar Markus (Aut, 1) G Rohit (1); S Meenakshi (1.5) beat Mohamad Al Sayed (Qat, 0.5); Jakov Geller (Rus, 0.5) lost to Deep Sengupta (1.5); Ara Minasian (Arm, 1.5) beat Tania Sachdev (0.5); Andrei Kovalev (Rus, 1) beat Lanka Ravi (0); Sergey Iskusnyh (Rus, 1) beat S Arun Prasad (0); Ashwin Jayaram (0.5) drew with Wu Wenjin (Chn, 0.5).
B: Sahaj Grover (1) lost to Julia Kochetkova (Rus, 2); Bazar Hataanbatar (Mgl, 1.5) beat B Adhiban (0.5); Shakhriyar Hasanov (Aze, 0.5) lost to Dinesh Kumar Sharma (1.5); Andrei Kuznosov (Rus, 0.5) lost to R Arun Karthik (1.5); Michael Langer (Usa, 0.5) lost to Aarthie Ramaswamy (1.5); Lou Yiping (Chn, 1.5) beat Abhishek Das (0.5); Wang Jiaquan (Chn, 0) lost to Suvrajit Saha (1); Gleb Kaganskiy (Rus, 1) beat Padmini Rout (0).
C: P Sivasankari (1) lost to Suren Poghosyan (Arm, 2); Oleg Pankratov (Rus, 1) lost to Amruta Mokal (2); P Priya (2) beat Roman Sapozhnikov (Can, 1); Soumya Swaminathan (1.5) beat Ian Marks (Sco, 0.5).