Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly recorded his fourth victory on the trot, outsmarting IM norm holder M R Venkatesh, in the 13th round of the 41st National 'A' Chess Championship in Kozhikode on Saturday.
With nine more rounds still remaining in this marathon 23-round tournament Ganguly took his tally to 11 points out of a possible 14 and is now 1.5 points clear of nearest rivals GM Koneru Humpy of Andhra Pradesh and PSPB's Sandipan Chanda.
In the joint fourth position are British Champion GM Abhijit Kunte of PSPB and top seed GM P Hari Krishna of AP, who has fought his way back in the championship, on 9 points.
Sapatarshi Roy Chowdhury of West Bengal and Neelotpal Das of PSPB share the sixth spot on 8.5 points each while Commonwealth Champion GM Dibyendu Barua of West Bengal and double GM norm holder Tejas Bakre of Indian Airlines have 8 points each in their kitty.
This was Ganguly's shortest victory in the tournament so far as Venkatesh fell prey to some well disguised tactical sequence of moves.
Playing white, the Kolkata based GM struck to his favourite king pawn opening and was up against the Classical Sicilian where Venkatesh got a comfortable position after the opening.
However, by successfully guiding his pieces to correct defensive squares, Ganguly found some hidden tactics in a difficult situation that Venkatesh failed to spot.
After blundering early in the middle game, Venkatesh sacrificed his queen but found that Ganguly had adequate resources to defend the minor tactics that ensued.
In other top board ties, Humpy won a game of fluctuating fortunes against Suvrajit Saha of West Bengal.
Getting a huge positional advantage after some reckless play by Saha, Humpy lost the thread of the position mid way and allowed loads of counterplay.
Both players expectedly fell under time pressure after Saha sacrificed a piece for some attack and Humpy made a mistake to let Saha get a winning position after deciding against drawing the game by perpetual checks many times.
However Saha, having survived extremely well through the difficult parts of the game, blundered again and after missing out on perpetual checks to Humpy's king called it a day.
Chowdhury played yet another solid game against Barua and drew without much ado though the latter tried to force a result for quite sometime.
Chowdhury's approach in this event has been exemplary so far. He has won three games including the cherished one against Harikrishna and has drawn the remaining games.
Meanwhile, Sandipan Chanda was let off the hook by S Satyapragyan from a nearly winning position arising out of a Sicilian defense where the former played white.
Satyapragyan squandered an easy chance to attack his opponent's king and then proposed for a draw which was immediately accepted by Chanda.
Abhijit Kunte was involved in a draw with Neelotpal Das while Hari Krishna had little difficulty in outclassing V Hariharan of Bank Sports Board.
Results (Round 14):
P Harikrishna (9) beat V Hariharan (3); Koneru Humpy (9.5) beat Suvrajit Saha (6); Sriram Jha (5.5) lost to Arghyadip Das (5.5); Prathamesh Mokal (7) drew Praveen Thipsay (7.5); Rokti m Bandhopadhyay (6.5) drew Tejas Bakre (8); Abhijit Kunte (9) drew Neelotpal Das (8.5); Dibyendu Barua (8) drew Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury (8.5); Sandipan Chanda (9.5) drew S Satyapragyan (6.5); S Vikramjit Singh (6) drew T S Ravi (4.5); S Kidambi (7.5) beat M Srinivas Rao (1.5); S S Ganguly (11) beat M R Venkatesh (7.5); R B Ramesh (7.5) drew Vishal Sareen (5).