Bala stuns Vijayalakshmi; Padmini leads by a point

Bala Kannamma, rated a whopping 317 points below Vijayalakshmi at 2073, handled the endgame splendidly to pull out the biggest victory of her career, in a marathon lasting just over five hours and spread over 79 moves.

Bala shocked Vijayalakshmi as the second seed suffered her second defeat in the National women chess championship in New Delhi on Thursday.   -  Rakesh Rao

In what should rank among the biggest upsets in the history of National women chess championship, 20-year-old P. Bala Kannamma made a mockery of rating in getting past title-contender S. Vijayalakshmi in the seventh round here on Thursday.

In a marathon lasting just over five hours and spread over 79 moves, the lowest-ranked participant in the field came out stronger against the most experienced among the 12 ladies.

Bala, rated a whopping 317 points below Vijayalakshmi at 2073, handled the endgame splendidly to pull out the biggest victory of her career.

Facing the Nimzo-Indian Defence adopted by Bala, Vijayalakshmi appeared better off in the opening phase. She went on to sacrifice a pawn but Bala’s clever play ensured that Vijayalakshmi did not get enough compensation.

A smart exchange of minor pieces by Bala on the kingside spoilt Vijayalakshmi’s pawn structure. Later, though draw appeared a possible result, Bala’s rook played a key role in clinching a vital point.

“This was the first time I was playing Vijayalakshmi and I’m very happy with the way I played,” said Bala, a final year B. Com student from Chennai. “I like the way I finished the game,” said the introvert youngster.

The setback was a huge one for Vijayalakshmi who is eyeing a seventh title in the championship. This is also her second loss to a fellow Chennai player, the first came against M. Mahalakshmi in the fifth round.

With four rounds left, Vijayalakshmi plays black against defending champion and leader Padmini Rout on Friday in what could be a crucial game in the title-race.

Padmini, held by Mahalakshmi, took her tally to 5.5 points – one better than Vijayalakshmi, Eesha Karavade and Soumya Swaminathan who share the second spot.

Padmini looked better off in the Grunfeld game but Mahalakshmi saw a good defensive line and salvaged half a point in 54 moves.

Soumya was one of the early winners of the day after getting past tailender Pratyusha Bodda in 36 moves. Swati Ghate used her experience to down the immensely-talented 15-year-old R. Vaishali, the youngest player in the field.

The results:

Seventh round: Kiran Manisha Mohanty (3) drew with Mary Ann Gomes (3) in 44 moves; Swati Ghate (2.5) bt R. Vaishali (2.5) in 33 moves; Soumya Swaminathan (4.5) bt Pratyusha Bodda (1.5) in 36 moves; Nisha Mohota (3) drew with Eesha Karavade (4.5) in 27 moves; M. Mahalakshmi (4) drew with Padmini Rout (5.5) in 54 moves; S. Vijayalakshmi (4.5) lost to P. Bala Kannamma (3.5) in 79 moves.

Eighth-round pairings: Mary-Bala; Padmini-Vijayalakshmi; Eesha-Mahalakshmi; Pratyusha-Nisha; Vaishali-Soumya; Kiran-Swati.