Divya Deshmukh took a big step towards the title when she upstaged second seed and two-time defending champion Bhakti Kulkarni to lead with 6.5 points after seven rounds of the MPL National Women’s Chess Championship here on Monday.

Eighth seed Divya, 16, took a half-point lead after beating joint overnight leader Sakshi Chitlange in the afternoon and went on to double it following a dominating 34-move victory with black pieces over a vastly-experienced Bhakti.

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Six-players - top seed R. Vaishali, Soumya Swaminathan, Padmini Rout, N. Priyanka, Pratyusha Bodda and Arpita Mukherjee - share the second spot at 5.5 points.