National Team Chess: Saina stuns S. Vijayalakshmi

Saina Salonika and Smaraki Mohanty helped Odisha-KIIT earn a draw against the star-studded Air India team.

Saina Salonika,14, defeated six-time national champion S. Vijayalakshmi in 45 moves.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

It took the brilliance of two local, teen girls to expose defending champion Air India’s inadequate preparedness in the second round of the National team chess championship here on Friday.

Although the fifth seeded Railwaymen upstaged second seed Airports Authority of India 2.5-1.5 by riding on R. R. Laxman’s surprise victory over fellow Grandmaster S. L. Narayanan in the third round, the talking point of the day was Odisha-KIIT’s 2-2 draw against the star studded Air India.

The 2015 World under-10 girls’ champion Saina Salonika, now 14, handed out to six-time National champion and International Master S. Vijayalakshmi an embarrassing defeat in 45 moves in Ruy Lopez.

Vijayalakshmi, whose six National titles came a year before Saina was born, could only watch haplessly as Saina won three pawns and a bishop. Thereafter, there was no denying Saina her biggest victory.

Smaraki Mohanty registered an upset win over Bhakti Kulkarni.   -  Biswaranjan Rout


A little later, Smaraki Mohanty, the 2016 Commonwealth under-18 champion, delivered a crushing blow to the 2016 Asian champion Bhakti Kulkarni in 45 moves.

Even as a victorious teammate Tania Sachdev watched in near-horror the unusual finish, Bhakti gave up when Samarki sacrificed her queen to establish to fresh queens, off successive moves.

What saved the day for Air India were the expected victories of Tania and S. Meenakhi on the first and fourth boards against Namita Hansdah and Aparajita Gochhikar.

After two days, Petroleum, Railways ‘A’, Railways ‘B’ and Air India lead the open section with six match-points. Among the women, Petroleum and AAI were ahead with four match-points.

Important results:

Open (third round): LIC (4) lost to Petroleum (6) 0-4; AAI (4) lost to Railways ‘B’ (6) 1,5-2.5; Odisha-KIIT (4) lost to Railways ‘A’ (6) 1.5-2.5; Air India (6) bt Bengal ‘A’ (4) 3-1; Bengal ‘B’ (4) bt Telangana (2) 3.5-0.5; Odisha ‘A’ (4) bt Tamil Nadu (2) 3.5-0.5; (second round): Petroleum bt Bengal ‘B’ 4-0; Tamil Nadu lost to AAI 0-4; Railways ‘A’ bt BSNL 3.5-0.5; Odisha lost to Air India 0.5-3.5; Railways ‘B’ bt Assam 4-0; UP lost to LIC 0.5-3.5.

Women (second round) Petroleum (4) bt Tamil Nadu (2) 3-1; Odisha-KIIT (3) drew with Air India (3) 2-2; AAI (4) bt LIC (2) 2.5-1.5; Telangana (2) bt Karnataka (1) 4-0.