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Sasikiran shares the top spot

Esbjerg (Denmark) July 8. Grandmaster Krishnan Sasikiran marched ahead with a tactical victory over GM Bruzon Lazaro of Cuba in the fourth round of the 18th North Sea Cup International chess tournament here.

Sasikiran took his tally to three points out of a possible four and now shares the lead with GM Luke McShane of England, who defeated GM Michal Krasenkow of Poland in a keenly contested game.

Half a point behind the leaders are the top seed GM Alexey Dreev of Russia and Curt Hansen of Denmark. Of the two, Dreev was involved in a draw with Lenier Dominiguez of Cuba, while Hansen used his positional prowess to outclass former World junior girls champion Koneru Humpy.

Denmark's Lars Schandorff, Hastings Champion Peter Heine Nielsen and Lazaro share the fifth spot at two points, while Krasenkow and Lenier were relegated to joint eighth spot having just 1.5 points from the four games played so far.

Humpy's bad patch continued as she suffered her fourth loss on the trot and was yet to open her account even at the half way stage of this 10-player nine-round tournament.

Sasikiran was lucky as Lazaro bungled a clearly superior position. The players fought the initial phase in an irregular opening that gave Sasikiran dynamic equilibrium with black pieces.

Lazaro was quick to pounce on a middle game error by the Indian stalwart that gave him a firm hold. Sasikiran worked out his counterplay in the final stages of the first time control when he sacrificed a pawn in the centre and caught Lazaro's king unattended by the supporting force. On the 42nd move Lazaro resigned when he was unable to cope with irresistible threats.

Humpy seems woefully out of form and the recovery for the youngest GM of the country seems highly unlikely in this tournament.

Hansen took his chances in the middle game arising out of an unorthodox Queen pawn game and was rewarded as Humpy fell in to a positional trap that left her light square Bishop crippled.

Hansen seized control of the dark squares with his rooks soon after and a tactical sortie netted him a couple of pawns on the 23rd move itself. Soon Humpy's king also came under firing range and the game ended in just 29 moves.

Krasenkow gave a demonstration of his positional acumen by giving his queen for three minor pieces and a pawn against McShane, who played black.

However in the complex middle game that ensued, the Polish missed the thread and subsequent exchanges led to a very loose position for him on both flanks. McShane wrapped up the issue in 42 moves.

Dreev was up against a solid Dominiguez. The Russian nevertheless managed to turn the heat on in the endgame. But precise defensive moves by the Dane steered the game to a peace result after 51 moves.

Schandorff and Nielsen played out a draw in just 26 moves of a Queen pawn game where the former played white.

The results: Fourth round (Indians unless mentioned): Bruzon Lazaro (2, Cuba) lost to K. Sasikiran (3); Michal Krasenkow (1.5, Pol) lost to Luke McShane (3, Eng); Curt Hansen (2.5, Den) bt Koneru Humpy (0); Lenier Dominiguez (2, Cub) drew with Alexey Dreev (2.5, Rus); Lars Schandorff (2, Den) drew with Peter Heine Nielsen (2, Den). — PTI

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