National women's chess: Meenakshi splits points with Mary Ann Gomes

Defending champion Padmini Rout began her campaign with a victory over P. Bala Kannamma.

Mary Ann Gomes (left) was forced to split the point with S. Meenakshi in the first round of the Natinal women's premier chess championship in Surat.   -  P.K. Ajith Kumar

She reached here from Chennai in the early hours of Saturday and was rather unwell. She had even reported a bit late for her opening round encounter, and was making a comeback to the National premier women’s chess championship after a gap of three years.

All that did not bother S. Meenakshi, who turned the clock back to split the point with top seed Mary Ann Gomes, rated 168 Elo points above, at the Surat Tennis Club. And she did that with black pieces.

The second seed and defending champion, Padmini Rout, however, began her campaign with a victory over P. Bala Kannamma. Third seed Soumya Swaminathan, though, was held to a draw by Swati Ghate, the senior-most player in the fray.

The day’s other winners were Kiran Manisha Mohanty and Sakshi Chithlange, who defeated Srishti Pandey and Samriddhaa Ghosh respectively.

P.V. Nandhidhaa did well to split the point with the much-higher rated Bhakti Kulkarni.“I am glad with my game today, as I could play well though I wasn’t feeling well,” said Meenakshi after drawing in 39 moves from a Reti Opening.

There wasn’t much to play for in the minor-piece ending when the ladies signed peace. Mary wasn’t entirely unpleased though, as she had run into time trouble.

There were no such worries for Padmini, who adopted French Defence to romp home in 38 moves. She reached a superior ending featuring double bishops and threatened to mop up White’s pawns. “It is a good way to start the tournament,” said Padmini, who is aiming her fourth title in a row.

A little later, Swati and Soumya finished their Sicilian game, which ended in 31 moves, with a rook and six pawns apiece remaining on the board.

The results (first round): P. Bala Kannamma (TN) lost to Padmini Rout (PSPB); Mary Ann Gomes (PSPB) drew with S. Meenakshi (AI); Swati Ghate (LIC) drew with Soumya Swaminathan (PSPB); Bhakti Kulkarni (AI) drew with P.V. Nandhidhaa (TN); Sakshi Chitlange (Mah) beat Samriddhaa Ghosh (Ben); Srishti Pandey (Mah) lost to Kiran Manisha Mohanty (LIC).Second-round pairings: Padmini v Swati; Srishti v Mary; Kiran v Soumya; Nandhidhaa v Sakshi; Meenakshi v Bhakti; Samriddhaa v Kannamma.