Queen Padmini’s long reign on 64 squares

Padmini, who won the National women’s premier championship for the fourth successive year at Surat a few days ago, somehow reminds you of Kangana Ranaut, the heroine of Queen.

Padmini Rout: “Winning the Olympiad gold in Norway is something that I will always cherish a lot."   -  P.K. AJITH KUMAR

One of Padmini Rout’s favourite movies is Queen. Little wonder, perhaps.

She is very much the queen in India’s domestic chess; she won the National women’s premier championship for the fourth successive year at Surat a few days ago. And she somehow reminds you of Kangana Ranaut, the heroine of Queen.

READ: Four titles in a row for Padmini

“Yes, I have often been told that I look like her,” she says, flashing her disarming smile. “I take it as a compliment. Kangana is one of my favourite actresses.”

The hidden artist

There is a bit of an artist in Padmini, too. She loves to paint. Like her elder sister Emlee.

As a young girl, it was the many triumphs of Emlee - now an engineer in Germany – as a schoolgirl that made Padmini competitive as a chess player.

“My sister used to win so many prizes; I would pretend that they were all mine and tell people as much,” the 23-year-old from Bhubaneswar reminisces.

“When I began playing chess - because my father felt that it would help in my studies - I saw it as an opportunity to win prizes myself.”

She no longer needed to pass her sister’s trophies as her own, as she took no time to establish herself as one of India’s most promising talents in the mind sport.

“I had begun playing the game only at the age of nine and had no intention of taking it seriously,” she says. “But, when I started winning the first prizes, I wanted to play more.”

'First National premier title my favourite'

When she clinched three significant titles in 2005 – the National Under-11 and Under-13 championships as well as the Asian Under-12 – she realised that chess was probably her life.

She went on to win bigger laurels, such as the World under-14 championship in 2008, the bronze medal at the World Juniors in 2010 and an individual gold at the Chess Olympiad in 2014.

“Winning the Olympiad gold in Norway is something that I will always cherish a lot; women from 131 countries had competed in that event,” Padmini says.

“And it was that year I had won my first National premier title. It remains the favourite of my four Premiers.”

She ranks the most recent one as the second. “I had to make a strong back towards the fag end of the tournament to win the title at Surat,” she says.

“I had begun very well and had enjoyed a lead of one point, but lost my momentum after the rest day. I had a couple of bad games, and had to depend on the results of the other boards.”

Padmini sets sight on GM title

Among her goals is the Grandmaster (GM) title. She already has the Woman Grandmaster and International Master titles under her belt.

She had scored her maiden GM norm in 2015 in Gibraltar. “I know that I have to play in lot more stronger open tournaments for that,” she says. “I intend to do play some events in Europe soon.”

READ: Chess set to make a new move in Saudi

Before that, she will be playing at the World rapid and blitz championships, which begins in Riyadh from December 26. It is going to be the first-ever sporting event in Saudi Arabia in which women are not required to wear a hijab (headscarf).

“I was so delighted to learn about it,” she says. “It is a big step forward for women in Saudi.”