Grandmaster MR Venkatesh beat GM Neelotpal Das and joined IM Swapnil Dhopade on the top with 3.5 points after four rounds of the Tata 50th National Premier Chess Championship here on Thursday. The pairings released in the evening pits the leaders against each other on Friday.
Dhopade is yet to beat Venkatesh in four meetings having lost twice but he goes into the contest on the back of the fighting draw against GM GN Gopal. Dhopade staved off some sustained attack on his kingside after Gopal sacrificed a bishop for a pawn to force a draw in 26 moves.
Gopal, GMs Deepan Chakravarthy and Sahaj Grover, who beat IM Debasish Das and ML Abhilash Reddy respectively, and IM Vidith Gujarati share the second spot on three points each. Gujarati sent IM Saptarshi Roy to his first defeat of the tournament.
Starting with an irregular Reti Opening, Venkatesh exploited Das’s error in judgment in the 15th move where he gave away a bishop.
Things went downhill for Das after the 20th move but Venkatesh took a while to seal the deal as both players were under time pressure.