Promising youngster Abhijeet Gupta had a miraculous escape to force a draw against Grandmaster Ghaem Maghami Ehsan of Iran in the seventh round of Masters' section in the Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival.
The 15-year-old is now the best-performing Indian in the event with 4.5 points along with double Grandmaster-norm holder D V Prasad.
After two straight defeats, Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly finally came good against Candidate International Master Parimarjan Negi and took his tally to a respectable four points out of a possible seven.
Meanwhile, at the top of the table, the two overnight leaders, Alexander Goloshchapov of Ukraine and Ashot Anastasian of Armenia, played a draw to remain in joint lead along with Aleksej Aleksandrov of Belarus, all on 5.5 points.
Five players, including top seed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan, share the second place, half a point behind the leading trio as just two more rounds remain in the tournament with a total prize pool of US $16,400.
While much was expected from IM-in-waiting Abhijeet against Maghami, the Iranian emerged as a much superior player.
Playing the white side of a King's Indian, Abhijeet got just a miniscule advantage in the opening that evaporated in no time once the middle game surfaced. Backing on counter play in the centre, Maghami was in his element. Even the trading of pieces at regular intervals did not stop Maghami from gaining a decisive advantage in the endgame.
Gupta lost two pawns in quick succession before his defensive skills took centre stage. The endgame was such that the Bhilwara boy almost resigned but his resilience saw him cling on.
Maghami's plans eventually went haywire in the final stages of the game. Gupta first picked a pawn and thereafter traded the rooks to reach a dead drawn endgame. The marathon
game lasted 79 moves.
The Indian now require at least 1.5 points in the remaining rounds for his GM norm depending on the rivals he faces. In the next round he is pitted against Grandmaster Dmitry Bocharov of Russia.
"I just played badly in the middle game and he obviously had a huge advantage," Gupta said adding, "I fought back hard from a nearly lost position hoping for a mistake from his side, I am glad it happened."
Ganguly was at his best in tackling the Sicilian Nazdorf of Negi. The classical system has given Ganguly many important victories and he stuck to it in the hour of need.
Negi on the other hand was not his usual self as he was gradually outplayed in the middle game. The Delhi-based youngster lost a pawn amidst a tactical melee and never recovered. The game ended after tactical move by Ganguly on the 34th move.
"It was a comfortable victory in the end," Ganguly said after the game.
Prasad drew with Igorsd Rausis of Bangladesh in what the Indian described as a safe positional game. WGM-in-waiting Tania Sachdev was held to a draw by young Azerbaijani Safarli Eltaj while Ghader Pour Shayesteh of Iran found a tough customer in Eesha Karavade.
Akshat Khamparia went down fighting against Russian GM Mikhail Ulibin and lower down, Kruttika Nadig scored over Ishaq Ahmed of UAE while M B Muralidharan did well to hold Neboisa Illijin of Romania.
Complete results round 7 (Indians unless specified):
Ashot Anastasian (Arm, 5.5) drew with Alexander Goloshchapov (5.5, Ukr); Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 5) drew with Alexei Federov (Blr, 5); Dmitry Bocharov (Rus, 5.5) lost to Aleksej Aleksandrov (Blr, 5.5); Vladimir Potkin (Rus, 5) drew with Mikhail Kobalia (Rus, 5); Abhijeet Gupta (4.5) drew with Ghaem Maghami Ehsan (Iri, 4.5); Gadir Guseinov (Aze, 4.5) drew with Rasul Ibrahimov (Aze, 4.5); Konstantin Chernyshov (Rus, 4.5) drew with Evgeny Gleizerov (Rus, 4.5); Saidali Iuldachev (Uzb, 5) beat Sale Srdjan (Cro, 4); Igors Rausis (Ban, 4) drew with D V Prasad (4.5); Al Sayed Mohamad (Qat, 4) d rew with Pavel Kotsur (Kaz, 4); Salem Ghuloom (Uae, 4) drew with Sergey Grigoriants (Rus, 4); Sergei Simonenko (Tkm, 3.5) lost to Sergey Kayumov (Uzb, 4.5. Zeinab Mamedjarova (Aze, 4.5) beat Igor Kursomov (Rus, 3).
Sergey Volkov (Rus, 3.5) drew with Meilis Annaberdiev (Turk, 3.5); Surya Shekhar Ganguly (4) beat Parimarjan Negi (3); Vladimir Dobrov (Rus, 4) beat Homayoon Toufighi (Iri, 3); Mikhail Ulibin (Rus, 4) beat Akshat Khamparia (3); Turkan Mamedjarova (Aze, 3) lost to Elshan Moradiabadi (Iri, 4); Atousa Pourkashiyan (Iri, 4) beat Stefan Djuric (Scg, 3); Mahjoob Morteza (iri, 3) lost to Alexander Raetsky (Rus, 4); Tania Sachdev (3.5) drew with Safarli Eltaj (Aze, 3.5); Oleg Boricsev (Hun, 2.5) lost to Himdan Maher (Egy, 3.5); Ghader Pour Shayesteh (Iri, 2.5) lost to Eesha Karavade (3.5); Shadi Paridar (Iri, 2.5) lost to Mesgen Amanov (Tkm, 3.5); M B Muralidharan (2.5) drew with Neboisa Illijin (Rom, 3); Abdulwahab Marwan (Uae, 2) lost to A R Saleh Jasim (Uae, 3); Aryanejad Hossein (Iri, 2.5) drew with E Momeni (Iri, 2.5); Al-Tamimi Hamad (Qat, 3) beat Faisal Abdulla (Uae, 2); Al-Sulaiti Ghanem (Qat, 3) beat James Coleman (Eng, 2); Ishaq Ahmed (Uae, 1.5) lost to Kruttika n adig (3); A R Saleh Salem (Uae, 1.5) lost to Adina-Maria Bogza (Rom, 2.5); Ismail Ibrahim (Uae, 1.5) drew with Amer Mohamed (Egy, 1.5); Abbas Monsour (Uae, 1.5) drew with Ibrahim Mohamed Khouri (UAE, 1).