| Sasikiran is gearing up for an exciting finish
Esbjerg (Denmark): Overnight leader GM Krishnan Sasikiran of India held GM Peter Heine Nielsen of Denmark to a draw to set the stage for a close finish in the 18th edition of the North Sea Cup chess tournament here.
With just two more rounds remaining in this 10-player tournament, GM Luke McShane of England joined Sasikiran at the top on 5.5 points after the former crashed through the defences of Danish GM Lars Schandorff.
Half-a-point adrift of the leaders is top seed and tournament favourite Alexey Dreev of Russia who outclassed title-contender Curt Hansen of Denmark to take his tally to five points.
Hansen holds the fourth place on four points despite the loss while GMs Michal Krasenkow of Poland, Lenier Dominiguez of Cuba and Nielsen are clubbed in a three-way tie for the fifth spot having three points apiece.
Jointly in eighth place are Cuban Bruzon Lazaro and Schandorff with 2.5 points each while Koneru Humpy, the other Indian in the fray, remained at the bottom with just one point.
In the seventh round Humpy suffered yet another defeat when she lost to Dominiguez.
In the Sasikiran-Nielsen tie the position remained sluggish for the major part of the game. Sasikiran was in no mood for complications as his play indicated in the middle game. Pieces changed hands at regular intervals, leading the position to a level endgame with rooks and minor piece after just 20 moves.
The peace treaty was signed after 39 moves.
McShane knew this was his best chance to catch up with Sasikiran and he made the most by bruising and squeezing the defensive resources of Schandorff in the Rossolimo attack.
Schandorff got in to opening troubles after McShane suspended his castling option and went for a direct attack against the centralised king.
But by the time McShane steered his king to safety on the queenside on move 16, the Dane was already in shambles. McShane won two rooks for two minor pieces soon after and won in 37 moves.
Dominiguez outplayed Humpy from a slightly worse middle game. The opening was a Slav Defence where Humpy enjoyed a slight advantage after the initial stages. However Dominiguez guided his pieces excellently to notch the full point after 55 moves.
Dreevís was a class act in beating Hansen with white. Dreev maintained a better position right through after his opponent was saddled with a weak pawn structure on the kingside. A pawn sacrifice by Dreev on the 29th move sealed Hansenís fate.