Grandmaster M.R. Venkatesh of Petroleum emerged the sole leader with 5.5 points after the seventh round of the TATA National premier chess here at Khudiram Indoor Hall on Sunday. With the championship reaching the half-way stage, Venkatesh is closely followed by three players — GM Deep Sengupta, IM P. Karthikeyan (both Petroleum) and IM Swapnil Dhopade (Railways) — on five points each.

Playing with black against Deepan Chakravarthy of Tamil Nadu, Venkatesh won the exchange in a King’s Indian defence after which he had little difficulty in converting his material advantage into a win.

In a major upset, lowly-rated Anurag Mhamal of Goa outwitted second-seeded GM S.P. Sethuraman of Petroleum by playing Slav defence with the black pieces in 36 moves.

City-based GM Deep Sengupta produced his most impressive game so far, beating Petroleum colleague GM G.N. Gopal in a French Tarrasch, before moving close to the leader. Deep created a passed pawn on the b-file which he later converted into a queen and created a mating-net around Gopal’s queen.

Swapnil Dopade drew yet another Grandmaster — Sahaj Grover of Delhi — to keep the chances of his GM norm alive. Swapnil forced the draw putting Sahaj in a knight-versus-bishop ending. GM Neelotpal Das of Petroleum drew against former national champion GM Praveen Thipsay of Maharashtra in 17 moves in King’s Indian defence. GM Dibyendu Barua registered his second win of the meet as he got the better of C.R.G. Krishna in 30 moves in a Catalan opening. The eighth round action will restart after a day’s rest on Tuesday.

The results (Round 7): G.N. Gopal (4.5) lost to Deep Sengupta (5); Deepan Chakraborthy (4) lost to M.R. Venkatesh (5.5); Swapnil Dhopade (5) drew with Sahaj Grover (4.5); P. Kartikeyan (5) bt B. Adhiban (4); G. Akash (4.5) drew with Vidit Santosh Gujarathi (4); S.P. Sethuraman (3.5) lost to Anurag Mhamal (4.5).

V.A.V. Rajesh (3.5) lost to Abhijit Kunte (4.5); S. Arun Prasad (4.5) bt S.L. Narayanan (3.5); S. Satyapragyan (4) bt Aravindh Chithambaram (3.5); Neelotpal Das (3.5) drew with Praveen Thipsay (3.5); Debashis Das (4) bt M.L. Abhilash Reddy (3).

S. Kidambi (4) bt C. Praveen Kumar (3); C.R.G. Krishna (3) lost to Dibyendu Barua (4); Bitan Banerjee (3.5) drew with Saptarshi Roy (3); M.R. Lalith Babu (3) drew with Swayams Mishra (3); Diptayan Ghosh (3.5) bt B.T. Murali Krishnan (2.5).

K. Praneeth Surya (3.5) bt Sagar Shah (2.5); S. Ravi Teja (2.5) drew with Mary Ann Gomes (2.5); Murali Kartikeyan (2.5) drew with Suvrajit Saha (2.5); Sashikant Kutwal (3) bt Arindam Mukherjee (2); Ram S. Krishnan (2.5) bt Sohan Phadke (2).

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