Divya Deshmukh is here only because R. Vaishali isn’t.
Vaishali, the defending champion in the women’s blitz event, had to pull out virtually at the last minute because of ill-health, and Divya came in as her replacement for the Tata Steel Chess India tournament.
She made the opportunity count. After shocking third seed Dronavalli Harika, and holding the reigning World champion Ju Wenjun of China to a draw, she defeated Georgia’s Nino Batsiashvili to move into the joint lead on the opening day.
Divya shared the lead with Vantika Agrawal, another young Indian who had an excellent day at the National Library. They have 2.5 points after the third round of the rapid section.
Ju has two points, while Batsiashvili, Russian Polina Shuvalova and Irina Krush of the United States are on 1.5. Six rounds remain.
Like Divya, Vantika too scored a couple of memorable wins over formidable rivals -- second seed Koneru Humpy, and the defending champion in this event, Anna Ushenina of Ukraine.
Divya, who was planning to spend a few days at home after playing tournaments continuously when she got the invitation to play here, is hoping to build on the great start. “I hope I don’t have a disappointing finish,” said the 17-year-old from Nagpur.
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