Usually in a game involving the leader and the lowest rated player in the competition, the result is easy to guess. But on Saturday, P. Bala Kannamma had better of the exchanges before frontrunner Padmini Rout managed to escape with a draw in the ninth round of the National women chess championship here.
The fortuitous draw took Padmini’s tally to seven points and maintained her one-point lead over Soumya Swaminathan. In the third place was S. Vijayalakshmi (5.5 points) after salvaging a point, and some pride, against Eesha Karavade in the face-off involving the top two seeds.
In fact, the day proved a good one for two other veterans and former champions 37-year-old Swati Ghate and 36-year-old Nisha Mohota . After the opening lines of Sicilian Defence, Padmini did not expect Bala to play Morra gambit. “For sometime, my position was a bit unpleasant,” admitted Padmini.
Bala, rated at 2073 as compared to Padmini’s 2374, raised visions of ending her rival’s unbeaten run after temporarily holding a two pawn-advantage. However, under time-pressure, Bala could not find the precise continuation. Padmini seized the opportunity to exchange the pieces and got back her pawns before the players drew in 46 moves.
Soumya, facing Kiran Manisha Mohanty in Scandinavian Defence, was surprised when her rival traded a bishop for three pawns – two from in front the white castled king and one from the centre. Thereafter, what followed was an interesting game where both players fought hard but could not get any distinct advantage. Eventually, Kiran forced a draw by perpetual checks.
Vijayalakshmi, with her pride bruised after suffering three defeats in the last four rounds, came out looking to beat the top seed with white pieces. She moved closer to her goal after claiming a central pawn on the 24th move in this London System game. After a series of exchanges, Eesha struggled to check Vijayalakshmi’s extra pawn from advancing menacingly. Thereafter, a hapless Eesha resigned in an endgame involving a knight each and pawns.
Swati, having blown away promising positions in the first half of the competition, cruised to her fourth victory in five rounds. The former champion stopped three-time champion Mary Ann Gomes in Sicilian Defence to jump to the fifth spot.
Nisha, playing from white side of English Opening, managed to win again after five rounds that included three defeats. Vaishali, already playing way below expectations, crashed to her fifth loss after allowing Nisha to launch a powerful kingside attack.
Pratusha Bodda rose from the bottom of the table to overpower M. Mahalakshmi for her third victory.
Ninth round: Swati Ghate (4.5) bt Mary Ann Gomes (4) in 38 moves; Soumya Swaminathan (6) drew with Kiran Manisha Mohanty (3.5) in 58 moves; Nisha Mohota (4) bt R. Vaishali (2.5) in 32 moves; M. Mahalakshmi (4) lost to Pratyusha Bodda (3.5) in 40 moves; S. Vijayalakshmi (5.5) bt Eesha Karavade (5.5) in 52 moves; P. Bala Kannamma (4) drew with Padmini Rout (7) in 46 moves.
10th-round pairings: Mary-Padmini; Eesha-Bala; Pratyusha-Vijayalakshmi; Vaishali-Mahalakshmi; Kiran-Nisha; Swati-Soumya.
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