Alireza Firouzja stepped up the pace towards a Candidates berth after inflicting a 43-move defeat on a previously-unbeaten K. Sasikiran in the eighth round of the FIDE Grand Swiss chess tournament at Riga, Latvia, on Thursday.

With three rounds to go, Firouzja leads at 6.5 points, a point ahead of a 10-man pack. The victory over Sasikiran also made him World No. 4 on the live rating list. Top two finishers from this competition will qualify for next year’s Candidates tournament.

P. Harikrishna and Nihal Sarin drew their games to join Sasikiran at five points. S. P. Sethuraman was the only Indian winner in the Open section while R. Vaishali and Padmini Rout posted victories in the women section.