National Women's Chess: Padmini back in sole lead

P. Bala Kannamma put on a fine display to hold top seed Mary Ann Gomes to a draw, while Padmini Rout notched up another win to regain her sole lead in the sixth round of the National premier women's chess championship at Surat.

P. Bala Kannamma (right) held top seed Mary Ann Gomes to a draw in the sixth round of the National premier women's chess championship at Surat.   -  P. K. AJITH KUMAR

A gruelling six hours and 107 moves later, P. Bala Kannamma was beaming when she began to talk of her game with Mary Ann Gomes. Her joy was understandable at the end of the sixth round of the Iwasa 44th National women’s premier chess championship at the Surat Tennis Club on Thursday; she hadn’t just drawn with the top seed, but the duo was separated by a massive 275 rating points.

However, the second seed and defending champion Padmini Rout notched up another win to regain her sole lead.

READ: National Women’s Chess: Nandhidhaa, Meenakshi join Padmini in lead

With five rounds remaining, she has five points, one ahead of her closest rivals, P. V. Nandhidhaa, whom she defeated, Soumya Swaminathan, S. Meenakshi and Bhakti Kulkarni. It was another day of decisive results, with just that one draw featuring Mary and Kannamma.

Before the two ladies reached a drawish rook against and rook-and-knight ending, the top seed, who opened with Reti, had her chances to force a win; she had created an outside passer. “Yes, Mary could have won, but she misplayed,” said Kannamma. “But, I am glad that I could defend correctly right through to avoid defeat.”

Her Tamil Nadu teammate, Nandhidhaa, had to pay a heavy price for her mistake in the Sicilian game against Padmini. In a minor piece ending, an unwise ‘c’ pawn push on the 42nd put her completely on the back foot. She was forced to give her bishop and to resign after 55 moves.

Nandhidhaa wasn’t the only Tamil Nadu player who had to concede a point after making an eminently regrettable move or two. Playing from the white side of an English Symmetrical opening against third-seeded Soumya, she walked into a losing position after erring with her ‘b’ pawn and then the queen on moves 44 and 45. She resigned another four moves later, with checkmate well in sight.

For Soumya, the win was badly needed, after the ‘flag-down’ incident involving in her game against Nandhidhaa Wednesday. “I am really relieved that I could win this game, though it was largely because of those mistakes made by Meenakshi,” said the former World junior champion.

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

And it was a memorable day for Samriddhaa Ghosh, who registered her maiden win in the National premiers. The debutante from Kolkata, after holding Padmini to a draw in the previous round, defeated Kiran Manisha Mohanty, rated 171 points above, in 31 moves of French Defence. Keeping with the theme of the day, Kiran blundered with her queen on the 21st move to put herself in a hopeless position.

The tournament will resume on Saturday after a day’s rest.

The results (sixth round): P.V. Nandhidhaa 4 lost to Padmini Rout 5; S. Meenakshi 4 lost to Soumya Swaminathan 4; Bhakti Kulkarni 4 beat Sakshi Chitlange 2.5; Mary Ann Gomes 3.5 drew with P. Bala Kannamma 2; Srishti Pandey lost to Swati Ghate 2.5; Kiran Manisha Mohanty 2 lost to Samriddhaa Ghosh 2.