World Junior champion Pendyala Harikrishna outwitted top seed Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov of the Netherlands in the third round of the Crown Group of Essent International chess tournament in Hoogeveen.
With his second successive victory, Harikrishna took his tally to 2.5 points out of a possible 3 and is now a full point ahead of nearest rivals Sokolov and Emil Sutovsky of Israel.
Sutovsky defeated Women's world champion Antoaneta Stefanova in the other game of the four-player double round robin event.
As things stand now, 1.5 points should be enough from the remaining three games for Harikrishna to notch another major victory of the year. He recently won the Sanjin Hotel Cup in China.
It turned out to be a disappointing day for Sokolov who did everything right for the major part of the game but failed to capitalise on his chances.
Starting off with the Italian game, Harikrishna came up with an early surprise and the Dutchman got a tenable position out of the opening with precise equalising manoeuvres.
Harikrishna was the first to err in the middle game when he landed in some difficulty on the queen side but managed to pull himself out of trouble with a fine pawn sacrifice leading to a level endgame.
It was the turn of Sokolov to return the favour in an apparently equal position and he failed to notice a quite bishop move that led to the trapping of a rook.
"It was a fortunate victory alright but I was not as much worse as many might have believed," Harikrishna said after the game. "His blunder came as a surprise to me but I was already OK by then. I think he should have looked for a draw instead of trying to win."
Sutovsky grinded Stefanova in a typical Ruy Lopez game with white pieces.
Opting for the Tchigorin variation, Stefanova's form was found wanting yet again as she was saddled with a few bad pieces and a timely rook sacrifice by Sutovsky tightened the noose in spectacular fashion.
Stefanova eventually managed a couple of pieces against a rook but her position was already beyond repair. With a perfect placement, Sutovsky won back the material and steered to an easy victory in 51 moves.
In the fifth round of the open section, Parimarjan Negi again missed out on scoring over a much higher rated opponent and drew with GM-elect Erwin Lami of the Netherlands.
It was in the final position of the game that Negi failed to spot the winning sequence.
Grandmaster Vladimir Baklan of Ukraine emerged as the sole leader in this section on 4.5 points.
Results crown group:
P Harikrishna (Ind, 2.5) beat Ivan Sokolov (Ned, 1.5); Emil Sutovsky (Isr, 1.5) beat Antoaneta Stefanova (Bul, 0.5).
P Harikrishna v/s Ivan Sokolov
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 a6 6. Bb3 O-O 7. O-O d6 8. h3 Ba7 9. Be3 Bxe3 10. fxe3 Ne7 11. Nh4 Ng6 12. Nf5 c6 13. Nd2 d5 14. Qf3 Be6 15. d4 a5 16. exd5 cxd5 17. dxe5 Nxe5 18. Qg3 Ng6 19. Nd4 Qb6 20. Rab1 Bd7 21. Bc2 Rae8 22. b4 Re7 23. bxa5 Qxa5 24. Rxb7 Qxc3 25. Nb1 Rxe3 26. Nxc 3 Rxg3 27. Nce2 Bc8 28. Ra7 Re3 29. a4 Ne5 30. Rb1 Ra3 31. Bb3 Be6 32. Nc3 Rc8 33. Ncb5 Rxb3 34. Nxb3 h5 35. N3d4 Rc4 36. a5 Ra4 37. a6 Kh7 38. Ra8 Nc4 39. a7 Ra2 40. Re1 black resigned.