Less than a month away from turning 16, B. Savitha Shri turned her sensational debut in the women’s World rapid chess championship into a medal-winning one by grabbing the bronze at Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday.
The Chennai teenager topped a four-way tie, involving a sixth-placed K. Humpy, to take the third spot with eight points.
China’s Tan Zhongyi took the gold by beating local favourite Dinara Saduakassova 1.5-0.5 in the blitz tie-breaker to decide the title after the duo tied at 8.5 points from 11 rounds.
Five-time World champion Viswanathan Anand tweeted, “What an amazing debut! She has a lot of ambition and courage! Really proud of this achievement! Really happy to share this moment. Congratulations to (coach) R. B. Ramesh for helping mould Savitha Shri! We hope that this is the beginning of a great career!”
Savitha is a trainee of Ramesh for over five years and also part of the elite group of Westbridge Anand Chess Academy, under Anand and a few hand-picked coaches.
A delighted Ramesh told Sportstar, “I’m really happy for her and acknowledge the part played by WACA in supporting her. Hope she evolves into a very strong asset for India. She is very determined and a practical player. With better and focussed preparation, she can become much stronger.”
Ramesh went on to share, “Before Savitha left for Almaty, we (Ramesh, Savitha, R. Praggnanandhaa, R Vaishali and M. Pranesh and a few others) went to Isha Yoga Center at Coimbatore to learn meditation/yoga to calm the nerves. I guess that has paid off!”
With a starting rank of 36 in a field of 98, Savitha made the chess world sit up and take notice as she made light of her rapid ranking of 2311 to perform at 2478-level against some of the best in women’s chess.
Starting the final day in the joint lead, Savitha lost to local Zhansaya Abdumalik after a one-move blunder on the 36th move and resigned without making another move. In the 10th round, the youngster bounced right back by beating China’s Going Qianyun and drew the final round with the eventual runner-up Dinara.
Former champion and seventh seed Humpy, too, performed to her reputation and drew Tan, the champion, in the final round. Padmini Rout (6 points, 38th), D. Harika (6, 39th), and Tania Sachdev (5.5, 50th) were the other Indians in the fray.
The action now moves to the blitz format that begins on Thursday.