Bringing forth his best defensive resources, fourth seed Aravindh Chithambaram just about managed to escape with a draw against Anurag Mhamal and stayed ahead in the National chess championship here on Tuesday.

From the brink of defeat, the last year’s runner-up battled hard to force a draw by perpetual checks in 79 moves. Vaibhav Suri’s victory over G.A. Stany — the conqueror of veteran Pravin Thipsay in the previous round — also contributed to Aravindh staying in sole lead.

Following the gruelling double-round day, Aravindh leads at 5.5 points, half a point ahead of five players. Another 13 players follow at 4.5 points.

Earlier in the day, Aravindh maintained his half-point lead by upstaging top seed Abhijeet Gupta in a long battle.

Flirting with danger

In a battle headed for a draw after 50 moves, Abhijeet tried too hard for victory, then realised he had flirted with danger and offered a draw. By this time, Aravindh was eyeing a possible victory.

He eventually made it in 60 moves after Abhijeet played a couple of moves of sub-optimal strength during the rook-and-pawn ending.

Joining Mhamal in the second spot was the triumphant quartet of Suri, Deep Sengupta, Deepan Chakkravarthy and Vishnu Prasanna.

Deep punished R.R. Laxman for being over-ambitious with a queenside pawn-break and it was all over in the next six moves. Deepan was clinical in his 43-move domination of Neelotpal Das while lower-rated Neelesh Saha found himself in a bind in just 19 moves against Vishnu.

On the lower boards, Abhijeet could only manage a draw against K. Saravana Krishnan after 61 moves, much like Thipsay did against Niranjan Navalgund in 63 moves.

Imocha falls

Veteran L. Imocha fell to the flamboyant play of Kerala’s K. Ratnakaran in their fierce tactical battle lasting just 24 moves.

Former champion P. Konguvel and fellow-veteran P.D.S. Girinath continued his unbeaten run to reach 4.5 points.

Among the lesser-known players, Goa’s Ritviz Parab maintained his impressive unbeaten run to reach 4.5 points after drawing with Deepan and former champion G. Akash.

Leading results: Sixth round: Anurag Mhamal (5) drew with Aravindh Chithambaram (5.5); Vaibhav Suri (5) bt G.A. Stany (4.5); Deep Sengupta (5) bt R.R. Laxman (4); Deepan Chakkravarthy (5) bt Neelotpal Das (4); Neelesh Saha (4) lost to Vishnu Prasana (5); Rahul Srivatshav (4.5) drew with Swapnil Dhopade (4.5); P. Karthikeyan (4.5) drew with Sammed Shete (4.5); P.D.S. Girinath (4.5) drew with N.R. Vignesh (4.5); Ritviz Parab (4.5) drew with G. Akash (4.5); P. Konguvel (4.5) drew with V.A.V. Rajesh (4).

Fifth round: Aravindh bt Abhijeet Gupta; Laxman drew with Suri; Neelotpal drew with Deep; Parab drew with Deepan; Stany bt Pravin Thipsay; Ratnakaran lost to Mhamal; Vignesh drew with Konguvel.