World junior champion leads the way in Moscow with Alexey Erokhov heading men's singles in event shorn of big names by COVID.
Kamila Valieva produced a solid skate to win the short program in the fifth and final stage of the Cup of Russia in Moscow.
With coach Eteri Tutberidze back rinkside, the 2020 world junior figure skating champion scored 86.20 to take a sizeable lead into tomorrow's free skate.
Skating to Storm composed by three-time Olympic medallist Eric Radford, Valieva opened with a smart triple flip but had to take a step after landing her triple Axel.
The 14-year-old was back up to speed with her final jumping element, a smooth triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, and ended with a spectacular spin sequence.
Ksenia Tsibinova posted 67.59 to take second on the day with Anastasia Tarakanova third on 64.18.
The event should have seen a rematch between 2015 world champion Elisaveta Tuktamysheva and reigning European champion Alena Kostornaia after the former won last month's Grand Prix of Russia.
Two-time world champion and Olympic silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva also withdrew after being treated for COVID.
The men's competition has also been affected with European champion Dmitri Aliev testing positive and recent Rostelecom Cup winner Mikhail Kolyada following him in pulling out as a precautionary measure.
Perhaps in view of those cases, this round has been closed to spectators unlike previous competitions.
Alexey Erokhov took the lead in the men's singles to boost his hopes of making the Russian nationals in Chelyabinsk in three weeks' time.
The 2018 world junior champion missed most of last season through injury and left Tutberidze in July to train under Viktoria Volckhkova.
The tall Muscovite was sixth in Stage 2 but - skating to Nicola Cavallaro's cover of Alicia Keys' Fallin' - had the best short program of his career so far here, landing an excellent quad Salchow followed by a fine triple Axel.
His closing triple loop-triple toe loop combination lacked the zip of his previous jumps but it was clearly the best skate of the competition and earned him 86.20, a score far in excess of his ISU personal best.
Egor Rukhin was second with 82.04 ahead of world junior bronze medallist Petr Gumennik who scored 76.08 despite some sketchy jumping.
Last year's Grand Prix Final bronze medallists Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov lead after the pairs short program.
The 2019 world junior champions were almost perfectly in sync, impressing with a throw triple loop and side-by-side triple Salchows.
They scored 80.13 to take an healthy advantage into tomorrow's free skate with Anastasia Balabanova and Alexei Svyatchenko*to* second on 64.60.
The top 12 from the five stages of the Cup of Russia were originally set to would have qualified for this month's national championships, but COVID and injuries have prompted a rethink.
It appears national team members will be automatically eligible for the competition meaning the likes of Kostornaia, Tuktamysheva and Medvedeva will be able to skate in Chelyabinsk, health permitting.