National chess: Exciting finale on the cards

Four share lead, following shock defeats to Meenakshi, Nandhidhaa.

Srishti Pandey (right) shocked P. V. Nadhidhaa to help set up a fascinating final day.   -  P. K. Ajith Kumar

The weather in this coastal city has changed dramatically over the last couple of days. Much like the form of the top players at the Iwasa 44th National women’s premier chess championship.

On a day that saw incessant rain with the expected arrival of Cyclone Ockhi, sole overnight leader S. Meenakshi was shocked by Kiran Manisha Mohanty, who is placed second from the bottom. Some time later, in an even more stunning result, P. V. Nandhidhaa was beaten by Srishti Pandey, who is languishing right at the bottom.

Monday report: Meenakshi emerges unlikely sole leader on dramatic day

In another important game, Padmini Rout, the champion for the last three years, was held to a draw by fourth seed Bhakti Kulkarni. All this has ensured that it should be an exciting final day at the Surat Tennis Club on Wednesday.

Uniquely poised

Theoretically, as many as six players – half the field – will begin the final round with probabilities of winning the title. “I can’t recall of a situation like this in any tournament that I have played over the years,” said third seed Soumya Swaminathan, one of those half-a-dozen contenders for the crown.

But, of the six, Nandhidhaa and top seed Mary Ann Gomes may not be too optimistic of their chances; they are half-a-point behind the joint leaders. The fight should actually be among those four on 6.5 points – Meenakshi, Bhakti, Soumya and Padmini.

Read: All games drawn in London Chess Classic

Meenakshi, one of the seniors here, might have a slight edge because she has good tie-break scorers and is slated to meet the young Srishti, who, though, will be all charged up after posting her first win in the tournament. In the other crucial games, Soumya meets P. Bala Kannamma, Padmini takes on Sakshi Chitlange, Bhakti plays Samriddhaa Ghosh and Nandhidhaa faces Mary.

Blunder

Meenakshi, who employed Petroff’s Defence, must be hoping some of the moves she made against Kiran, such as her queen-side pawn push on the 32nd turn, does not cost her the crown. She reached an inferior minor-piece ending and was four pawns down when she resigned after 51 moves.

It was just as forgettable a game for her fellow Tamil Nadu player, Nandhidhaa, who had got a clearly better position after playing from the black side of a Reti Opening. She, then, misplayed as the game entered a rook-and-minor piece ending, in which she blundered an exchange and lost in 79 moves.

The much-anticipated game between Bhakti and Padmini - the defending Premiers and Challengers champion respectively - lasted only 27 moves. It ended with the Padmini, who played Grunfeld Defence, sacrificing her knight to force perpetual checks.

The results (10th round)
  • Kiran Manisha Mohanty 3 beat S. Meenakshi 6.5;
  • Srishti Pandey 2 beat P.V. Nandhidhaa 6;
  • Mary Ann Gomes 6 beat Samriddhaa Ghosh 3;
  • Bhakti Kulkarni 6.5 drew with Padmini Rout 6.5;
  • Sakshi Chitlange 4.5 lost to Soumya Swaminathan 6.5;
  • P. Bala Kannamma 4 drew with Swati Ghate 5.5.