In a clash of two unbeaten players, National 'B' champion B. Adhiban of Petroleum Sports Control Board brought Sriram Jha's march to a grinding halt in the seventh round at the Premier National Chess Championships.
Jha, who had won three games in a row, beating two Grandmasters — Sundararajan Kidambi and Abhijeet Gupta in the process, however, managed to retain a share of the lead with Adhiban. Both have 5.5 points from seven games.
Neelotpal Das moved into the second spot by trapping top seed G.N. Gopal in a rare mating net using his bishop and knight, two of the minor pieces on the board.
Das has five points from a possible seven and is followed by seven players with 4.5 points as the 13-round tournament reached the midway stage.
The effect of playing seven successive rounds was visible on the players as 13 out of the 21 games ended in draw.
On the top board, Jha once again opted for Slav Defence which has served him well thus far in this event.
The 16-year-old Adhiban got an advantage when he exchanged his bishop for the rival's knight and also ensured isolated double pawns, which could be promoted later. Jha had some chances of equalising the position but he failed to do so.
On the second board, Nilotpal Das played the Philidor’s defence, which is not favoured so much at the top level nowadays as the player with black pieces — which are passive — does not get much advantage. However, things turned in favour when Gopal lost material and positional advantage when trying to save two extra pawns he picked after sacrificing his knight.
Das made the opportunity count by unleashing a mating attack.