National women's chess: Bhakti shocks Mary on a ‘black day’

The defending champion Padmini Rout won from the black side, thus maintaining her sole lead with 3.5 points.

Bhakti Kulkarni (left) shocked Mary Ann Gomes in the fourth round of the National women's premier chess championship at Surat.   -  P. K. Ajith Kumar

Six games, six decisive results!

You could not have asked for more on day four of the Iwasa 44th National women’s chess championship at the Surat Tennis Club. And four of those wins were achieved by players with black pieces. One of those women who won from the black side was defending champion Padmini Rout, who thus maintained her sole lead with 3.5 points. But the big news of the fourth round was the defeat of Mary Ann Gomes, at the hands of Bhakti Kulkarni, seeded fourth.

Half-a-point behind Padmini are three players on three points – P.V. Nandhidhaa, who surprised Commonwealth champion Swati Ghate, S. Meenakshi and third seed Soumya Swaminathan. Seven rounds remain.

READ: National women's chess: Padmini still ahead despite draw with Soumya

Bhakti is hoping to continue her turnaround in those rounds as well. After a poor start, she has now scored two wins in as many rounds. She had reasons to be pleased after defeating rather convincingly, in 31 moves from the black side of a Reti Opening. The mate was just three moves away for the top seed when she finally gave up; it had been a lost cause for her well before that. Her king was being intimidated by Black’s rook on the seventh rank, and the queen. “I had got a better position early on in the game, because of a couple of weak moves from Mary and I was able to consolidate my position,” said Bhakti, flashing her winning smile.

Padmini too had plenty to smile about after posting her third win. Though it took her 51 moves to win after adopting Fianchetto Defence against Torre Attack, she had long had the upper hand, following Kiran Manisha Mohanty’s unwise 25th move, when she erred with her rook. Kiran, already down materially, resigned faced with the prospect of Black’s pawn turning into queen. “It was easy for me after she blundered with that rook move,” said Padmini. “Yes, I am happy with the way I have played so far here, but there is a long way to go yet.”

Another woman who should be happy with her show thus far is Meenakshi, the eighth seed who is returning to the championship after an interval of three years. She defeated fellow Chennai player P. Bala Kannamma in 61 moves from the white side of a Queen’s Gambit Declined, having gone a piece up earlier.

The only other player to win with white pieces on Saturday also speaks Tamil, but Nandhidhaa received generous help from Swati before she checkmated her on the 60th move in their Spanish Game.

The results (fourth round): Mary Ann Gomes 2 lost to Bhakti Kulkarni 2.5; Kiran Manisha Mohanty 1.5 lost to Padmini Rout 3.5; Samriddhaa Gosh 0.5 lost to Soumya Swaminathan 3; P.V. Nandhidhaa 3 beat Swati Ghate 1.5; Srishti Pandey 0 lost to Sakshi Chitlange; S. Meenakshi 3 beat P. Bala Kannamma 1.