Former champions M. R. Lalith Babu, Abhijeet Gupta and surprise packet Kousav Chatterjee pulled off well-calculated victories to be part of a five-man leaders group at 4.5 points after five rounds of the MPL 58th National chess championship on Sunday.
Two others, Arjun Erigaisi and D. Gukesh, drew their top-board game in 46 moves to stay among the leaders at 4.5 points.
With six rounds to go, 14 players follow the leaders at four points. This group included top seed B. Adhiban who split the point with Harsha Bharathakoti.
Lalith ended the all-win streak of Aryan Chopra in an interesting battle lasting 47 moves. At one Aryan chose to trade his queen for two rooks and moved into a winning position after 31 moves. Thereafter, Aryan played a series of moves of sub-optimal strength and committed a blunder on the 37th move by going for the knight-bait.
National men's Chess Championship: Arjun, Gukesh, Aryan lead
Lalith claimed a rook and made the most of his active queen while advancing a queenside pawn. When Aryan saw no way of stopping the pawn without losing his rook or knight and resigned.
Abhijeet prevailed over Aditya Mittal in 91 moves in the longest battle of the day. Though Abhijeet held an extra pawn advantage for a long time, it took a long time to end the youngster’s resistance.
In the meantime, Koustav Chatterjee continued his surprise run. A day after holding top seed B. Adhiban and fifth seed S. P. Sethuraman, Koustav nailed two-time former champion M. Karthikeyan in 59 moves with black pieces.
Karthikeyan blundered on the 41st turn with a queen-move soon after Koustav traded his rook for a bishop and pawn. Koustav eventually managed to establish three connected passed pawns following the timely exchange of queens.