New Delhi: GM Anton Korobov of Ukraine stayed in sole lead following a draw with Parimarjan Negi in the fifth round of AICF-AAI Cup 2012 here.
On what turned out to be another hard-fought day, Russian Evgeny Alekseev capitalised on an optical blunder and went on to beat former world junior champion Abhijeet Gupta, while top seed Radoslav Wojtaszek of Poland played out a draw with India’s Krishnan Sasikiran.
At the half-way stage in the category-18 six-player double round-robin tournament, Korobov still enjoys the cushion of a half point over Alekseev.
The Ukrainian with 3.5 points has three white games to come in the remaining five matches and has now emerged as a firm favourite for the crown.
Alekseev remains in pursuit of the leader just a half point behind. With his second victory coming in near-identical fashion like the first against Negi, the Russian took his tally to three points.
Wojtaszek and Negi stand joint third now with 2.5 points apiece, while Gupta slipped to fifth spot in rankings on two points.
Sasikiran is still at the bottom of the tables with 1.5 points from his five games in the Rs 1.2 million prize money tournament.
Korobov employed the Breyer variation in the Ruy Lopez against Negi who played white. The Indian had beaten Sasikiran in the same opening but that did not deter Korobov in any way.
Negi could not quite get his king side attack rolling, while Korobov was able to make some progress on the other flank. As it happened, Negi decided to play it safe and went for the repetition of moves in the middle game.
Gupta came up with an opening surprise by going for the Center Counter gambit but the strategy boomeranged when the Indian simply blundered a pawn in the opening itself.
Alekseev's technique was not perfect but it was enough to net the full point he desperately needed.
In the other game of the day, Sasikiran drew with Wojtaszek from a Nimzo Indian defense game. The Indian had no trouble equalising from the opening and the pieces changed hands at regular intervals.
Soon enough it was opposite colour Bishops on board. The remaining queen and rooks also were off the board in no-time and in just 37 moves the peace was signed.