Grandmaster Krishnan Sasikiran's hunt for an elusive victory continued as he drew with GM Alexei Barsov of Uzbekistan in the fifth round of the premier 65th Hastings International Chess Congress in Hastings, Britain.
GM Luke McShane of England put up a sterling performance and crushed GM Peter Heine Nielsen of Denmark whose lead was reduced to just half a point after the disaster.
Nielsen leads the table with 3.5 points, followed by GM Keith Arkell of England, Barsov, and Indian GM Pentyala Hari Krishna, who also drew his board on Thursday, with 3 points each.
Sasikiran, McShane and GM Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine are close behind with 2.5 points apiece.
Sasikiran, his fifth successive draw in as many rounds, decided not to press for a win though he was in a very dynamic position against Barsov.
The players opened with a Capablanca variation in the Nimzo Indian defence, with Sasikiran having the advantage of the first move.
The middle game took shape in a rather off-beat fashion with Sasikiran opting to keep his king in the centre and embarking on a king side attack with his heavy pieces.
Barsov, to his credit, worked out the counter play in style. By giving away a pawn for coordination of his forces, the Uzbek kept himself very much in the game and proposed a draw on the 27th move that was accepted by Sasikiran after some thought.
Hari Krishna drew a wild game against Arkell. Up against a Bogo Indian defence with white, Krishna kept his opponent on the edge with a brilliantly planned attack in the middle game.
Arkell struck on the queen side, wining a pawn, and was forced to part with a rook for a knight as Krishna's attack became threatening.
But the pawn mass of black provided ample counter attack in the centre and in the end, Krishna did not succeed in effectively breaking the king side. They drew after 37 moves.
The day belonged to McShane. Till June last year, the 18-year old was busy with his studies, but since then he has made rapid strides in the international circuit.
Just prior to the Hastings tournament, McShane had won the silver in the 41st World Junior Championship at Goa.
He is expected to break the 2600 barrier soon if he continues to win matches like the one with Nielsen.
Nielsen chose the Berlin defence, an opening that even the likes of Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand find a tough nut to crack. McShane, however, had an ace up his sleeve as he deviated on the sixth move from regular variations and arrived at a very original position, which caught Nielsen napping.
In a bizarre turn of events for the Dane, his queen side rook and bishop never saw the light of day as McShane launched an offence against the king at the cost of a pawn.
Nielsen resigned on the 20th move in the shortest decisive game of the tournament.
The world's youngest GM Sergey Karjakin was on song against glam-girl Woman Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia. Playing with black pieces, Karjakin employed the Zaitsev variation against the Ruy Lopez and caught Kosteniuk off guard in one of the extensively analysed variations.
On the 20th move, the Russian sacrificed a rook for a bishop hoping for compensation with chances on the king side, but Karjakin thwarted white's exploits with some fine manoeuvres. The game lasted 43 moves.
Russian GM Vitaly Tseshkovsky suffered his third loss in the tournament, going down against GM Glenn Flear of England in the other decisive game of the day.
Tseshkovsky is languishing at the bottom of the table with just one point from five rounds while Flear moved to two points after this victory.
P Hari Krishna (3) drew Keith Arkell (Eng, 3); Luke McShane (Eng, 2.5) beat Peter Heine Nielsen (Den, 3.5); K Sasikiran drew Alexei Barsov (Uzb, 3); Glenn Flear (Eng, 2) beat V Tseshkovsky (Rus, 1); Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus, 2) lost to Sergey Karjakin (Ukr, 2.5).
Standings after round 5:
1. Nielsen (3.5)
2. Arkell, Barsov, Harikrishna (3 each)
5. McShane, Sasikiran, Karjakin (2.5 each)
8. Flear, Kosteniuk (2.0 each)
10. Tseshkovsky (1)
K Sasikiran v/s Alexei Barsov:
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 c5 5. dxc5 O-O 6. a3 Bxc5 7. Nf3 b6 8. Bf4 Nh5 9. Bg3 Bb7 10. e3 Be7 11. Rd1 h6 12. Be2 Nc6 13. Rd2 Rc8 14. Qd1 Nxg3 15. hxg3 Nb8 16. Nb5 a6 17. Nd6 Bxd6 18. Rxd6 Qc7 19. Rd4 Rfd8 20. Rg4Bxf3 21. gxf3 Nc6 22. Rxh6 Ne5 23. Rg5 d5 24. Qc2 g6 25. Rhh5 Kg7 26. f4 Nxc4 27. Qc3+ d4 draw agreed.
P Hari Krishna v/s Keith Arkell:
1. d4 e6 2. c4 Bb4+ 3. Bd2 Bxd2+ 4. Nxd2 d5 5. Ngf3 Nf6 6. e3 Nbd7 7. Bd3O-O 8. O-O b6 9. cxd5 exd5 10. Rc1 Bb7 11. b4 c6 12. Ne5 Nxe5 13. dxe5 Nd7 14. f4 Qe7 15. Nf3 f6 16. Qc2 fxe5 17. Bxh7+ Kh8 18. Ng5 e4 19. Qe2 Rf6 20.Bf5 Rh6 21. Bxd7 Qxd7 22. f5 a5 23. Qb2 Qe7 24. Ne6 axb4 25. g4 c5 26. g5 Rxe6 27. fxe6 Qxg5+ 28. Kh1 d4 29. Rf7 Bd5 30. Rg1 Qh6 31. Qg2 Rg8 32. exd4 cxd4 33. Rd7 Ba8 34. Ra7 Bc6 35. Rc7 Qxe6 36. Rxg7 e3 37. Rxg8 + Kh7 draw agreed.
Luke McShane v/s P H Nielsen:
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. Re1 Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bd3 O-O 8. Nc3 Nxe5 9. Rxe5 Bf6 10. Re3 Re8 11. Nd5 Bg5 12. f4 Bh6 13. Rh3 c6 14. Ne3 Ne4 15. Bxe4 Rxe4 16. Nf5 Qb6+ 17. d4 Bxf4 18. Qh5 h6 19. Bxf4 Rxf4 20. Re1 black resigned.