National women's c'ship: Vijayalakshmi, Padmini retain lead

S. Vijayalakshmi’s third victory in four games saw her keep the company of defending champion Padmini Rout at the top of the table with 3.5 points.

Eesha Karwade posted her maiden victory at the expense of Kiran Manisha Mohanty.   -  Rakesh Rao

It was the kind of wake-up call that could well see S. Vijayalakshmi stay more alert through the remainder of her campaign for the record-improving seventh national women’s chess title.

In the fourth round, the 37-year-old messed up a full winning position against archrival Nisha Mohota before getting her act back in the sixth hour and walking off as a relieved winner in 78 moves.

Vijayalakshmi’s third victory in four games saw her keep the company of defending champion Padmini Rout at the top of the table with 3.5 points.

On a day when five out of six boards witnessed decisive battles, three-time winner Mary Ann Gomes drew with a much-younger M. Mahalakshmi in 59 moves.

Top seed Eesha Karavade posted her maiden victory at the expense of Kiran Manisha Mohanty and so did R. Vaishali who got the better of Pratyusha Bodda. Padmini’s third victory resulted in a third loss for the unpredictable Swati Ghate.

Nisha, who eventually suffered her first loss alongside P. Bala Kannamma on this day, displayed tremendous fighting abilities against Vijayalakshmi, who held the upper hand for the better part of their Queen’s Gambit Declined game.

Relief

Up two pawns by the 29th move, Vijayalakshmi appeared on a roll until she mishandled the position and allowed Nisha plenty of defensive options. “I couldn’t imagine letting go of such a comfortable position,” admitted Vijayalakshmi, appearing more relieved than delighted with her effort. “I missed a lot of possibilities. But luckily I regained my grip in the end,” said the joint leader.

With each player having a rook and a bishop, on opposite-colour squares, Vijayalakshi’s two extra pawns eventually proved decisive.

Padmini, for a change, was not the last to finish her game. She outwitted Swati after gaining a bishop. It was obvious that Swati had missed a better continuation after keeping pace with the in-form Padmini.

Eesha stayed in control of a complex game against Kiran. After a series of exchanges, Eesha found a checkmating combination. At this stage, an exasperated Kiran gave up.

The results (fourth round): Mary Ann Gomes (2) drew with M. Mahalakshmi (1.5) in 59 moves; S. Vijayalakshmi (3.5) bt Nisha Mohota (2) in 78 moves; P. Bala Kannamma (2) lost to Soumya Swaminathan (3) in 37 moves; Padmini Rout (3.5) bt Swati Ghate (0.5) in 46 moves; Eesha Karavade (3) bt Kiran Manisha Mohanty (1) 49 moves; Pratyusha Bodda (0.5) lost to R. Vaishali (1.5) in 40 moves.

Fifth-round pairings: Vaishali-Mary; Kiran-Pratyusha; Swati-Eesha; Soumya-Padmini; Nisha-Bala; Mahalakshmi-Vijayalakshmi.