Exciting finale on the cards as Soumya closes in on Padmini

Stage is set for an exciting finale of the National women chess championship after Soumya Swaminathan pulled off a much-needed victory over Swati Ghate and moved within half a point of the leader Padmini Rout following the 10th and penultimate round here on Sunday.

Soumya Swaminathan(in pic) pulled off a much-needed victory over Swati Ghate.   -  Special Arrangement

Stage is set for an exciting finale at the National women chess championship after Soumya Swaminathan pulled off a much-needed victory over Swati Ghate and moved within half a point of the leader Padmini Rout following the 10th and penultimate round here on Sunday.

With the title at stake, Padmini played it safe against Mary Ann Gomes and took her tally to 7.5 points. Soumya, lucky to win after Swati blundered away a knight in an equal position, moved to seven points.

Eesha Karavade and S. Vijayalakshmi, the top two seeds, won as expected to stay in the joint third spot with 6.5 points. These four players are assured for the first four places after staying a minimum of two points ahead of those sharing the fifth spot.

With defending champion Padmini due to play with white pieces against Eesha, a draw looks the most probable outcome between these two Indian Oil colleagues. Soumya takes on fellow Indian Oil teammate Mary Ann Gomes. Vijayalakshmi, 37, will play R. Vaishali, 15, in a battle of generations.

In case of a tie for the title, the tie-break score would favour Padmini since, at present, she has the best tally. In fact, a draw could help Padmini keep the title for the third successive year. Soumya needs nothing less than a victory, provided Eesha ends Padmini’s unbeaten run.

On Sunday, a victory for Padmini or a draw for Soumya would have decided the title with a round to spare. But that was not to be.

Playing white, Mary Ann Gomes gave no concessions to Padmini and kept up the pressure. Padmini realised the importance of salvaging a draw, made some very precise, risk-free moves and forced a draw.

Later, Soumya, too, looked like drawing with Swati until the LIC player miscalculated a tactical shot. Looking to capture a pawn, Swati overlooked the resultant loss of her queen for rook and resigned.

Vijayalakshmi brooked no hurdle against lowly-placed Pratyusha Bodda and cruised to a well-executed victory. Following a rook and pawn ending, Vijayalakshmi posted her sixth victory, most by a player so far, in the tournament.

The results (10th round): Mary Ann Gomes (4.5) drew with Padmini Rout (7.5) in 47 moves; Soumya Swaminathan (7) bt Swati Ghate (4.5) in 46 moves; Pratyusha Bodda (3.5) lost to S. Vijayalakshmi (6.5) in 41 moves; Eesha Karavade (6.5) bt P. Bala Kannamma (4) in 42 moves; R. Vaishali (3.5) bt M. Mahalakshmi (4) in 43 moves; Kiran Manisha Mohanty (4) drew with Nisha Mohota (4.5) in 25 moves.

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