Grandmaster Abhijit Kunte played to his intimidating reputation with black pieces and not only overtook R. R. Laxman but also enhanced leader S. Ravi Teja’s chances of winning the Amity National Challengers chess championship here.

After Monday’s 12th and penultimate round, Kunte moved to the joint second spot with Surya Praneeth at nine points, just half behind Ravi Teja who drew with Vishnu Prasanna on the top board.

As things stand, there are nine players sharing the fourth spot at 8.5 points and another 11 players at eight points – all in pursuit of the nine qualifying berths for this year’s National championship.

Even as Ravi and Vishnu Prasanna battled all the way to a 70-move draw in a game that saw the queens and rooks going off the board by the 38th move, Kunte was preparing to punish Laxman for a questionable choice of pawn-move on the 30th move.

The exchange of queens followed and Kunte gained a pawn. Thereafter, Kunte went on to give a master-class in endgame with rook and bishop leading to a crucial victory in 64 moves.

Surya, too, had to work hard to overpower former National champion G. Akash in 78 moves in their Sicilian game. Surya’s extra pawn, gained on the 42nd move, dictated the course of the contest that eventually ended with the black queen returning to the board.

The results:

12th round: Vishnu Prasanna (8.5) drew with S. Ravi Teja (9.5); R. R. Laxman (8.5) lost to Abhijit Kunte (9); Tejas Bakre (8.5) drew with Utkal Ranjan Sahoo (8.5); Sriram Jha (8.5) drew with Chandra Prasad (8.5); G. Akash (8) lost to Surya Praneeth (9); Aravindh Chithambaram (8.5) bt Vikramaditya Kulkarni (7.5); S. L. Narayanan (8.5) bt Somak Palit (7.5); Ramnath Bhuvanesh (8) drew with Shardul Gagare (8); Santu Mondal (8) drew with S. Nitin (8); Abhishek Kelkar (8.5) bt Hemal Thanki (7.5); Arjun Kalyan (8) bt N. Srinath (7); Tarini Goyal (7) gave a walkover to Himal Gusain (8); Mehar Chinna Reddy (7) lost to Sidhant Mohapatra (8); Akshat Khamparia (8) bt G. B. Joshi (7); B. Harsha (8) bt Vantika Agarwal (7); B. T. Murali Krishnan (7.5) bt V. A. V. Rajesh (7.5); Baivab Mishra (7) lost to Neeraj Kumar Mishra (8); Rajesh Nayak (7.5) drew with Mary Ann Gomes (7.5).

Leading final-round pairings: Ravi-Surya; Kunte-Aravindh; Kelkar-Narayanan; Prasad-Vishnu; Laxman-Bakre; Sahoo-Jha; Gagare-Mondal; Harsha-Gusain; Neeraj-Akash; Nitin-Ramnath; Mohapatra-Khamparia and Rajesh-Kalyan.