Caution was the watchword for those on the leading board as a sequence of peace treaties marked the eighth round of the Gurgaon Grandmasters' International Open chess tournament on Monday.
If the first two boards, featuring four of the five overnight leaders, needed a total of 50 moves end in draws, Sahaj Grover matched that number on the third board and stayed in the leaders’ pack.
Breaking the monotony of draws on the top-10 boards were young Swayams Mishra and the seasoned Vikramaditya Kulkarni, who won with black pieces to make it a seven-player leaders’ group at 6.5 points. Two more rounds remain.
Kulkarni outsmarted GM S. Kidambi in a bishop-versus-knight endgame after sustaining the pressure for the better part of the 58-move game. Swayams outwitted a far more experienced fellow International Master B.S. Shivananda in 52 moves in a bishop-pawn endgame.
After top-seeded Ukrainian Martyn Kravtsiv and Georgian Tornike Sankidze drew in 23 moves and Prasanna Rao continued his unbeaten run with a comfortable 27-move draw with black pieces against third seeded Russian Alexander Evdokimov, the focus was on Grover.
Grover steered the game into a knight-pawn ending where he avoided even the faintest sign of danger by triggering off a series of exchanges. It eventually left Evdokimov with an extra knight with just the two kings on the board.
On the brighter side, M. Kunal held fifth seeded Filipino GM John Paul Gomez in 39 moves and P. Karthikeyan proved equal to 11th seeded GM Ukrainian Eldar Gasanov in 61 moves to exceed expectations.
The results (Indians unless stated): Eighth round: Martyn Kravtsiv (Ukr, 6.5) drew with Tornike Sankidze (Geo, 6.5); Alexander Evdokimov (Rus, 6.5) drew with Prasanna Rao (6.5); Oliver Barbosa (Phi, 6) drew with Sahaj Grover (6.5); John Paul Gomez (Phi, 6) drew with M. Kunal (6); P. Karthikeyan (6) drew with Eldar Gasanov (Ukr, 6); B. S. Shivananda (5.5) lost to Swayams Mishra (6.5); P. Shyamnikhil (6) drew with Raset Ziatdinov (USA, 6); S. Kidambi (5.5) lost to Vikramaditya Kulkarni (6.5); Merab Gagunashvili (5.5) drew with V. Karthik (6); Akash Iyer (5.5) drew with Marat Dzhumaev (Uzb, 5.5); Valeriy Neverov (Ukr, 5) lost to Ulugbek Tiliyaev (Uzb, 6); S. Arun Prasad (5.5) drew with Puneet Jaiswal (5.5); N. Srinath (6) bt Aniruddha Deshpande (5); N. Surendran (5.5) drew with V.A.V. Rajesh (5.5); S. Satyapragyan (5.5) drew with Lakshmi Narayanan (5.5); S. Ravi Teja (6) bt Bobir Sattarov (Uzb, 5); Sameer Kathmale (5.5) drew with Sarvinoz Kurbonboeva (Uzb, 5.5); S. Nitin (6) bt Nishant Malhotra (5); Deepthamsh Reddy (6) bt N. Visakh (5); Akmal Faizulaev (Uzb, 6) bt Gaurav Kumar (5).