Women's Speed Chess: The Praggnanandhaa touch in R. Vaishali

R. Vaishali, who is in the news for her good show in Women's Speed Chess, says her brother R. Praggnanandhaa has helped her train for the tournament.

Praggnanandhaa and Vaishali

R. Praggnanandhaa and his sister R. Vaishali.   -  M. VEDHAN


R. Vaishali is in the news for the past few days. For someone who has been overshadowed by her prodigious younger brother for most of her career, it is a different experience.

The Chennai girl is putting up a fine show at the FIDE Chess.com Women’s Speed Chess. Vaishali said she had prepared well for the tournament. She, of course, has an excellent sparring partner at home, R. Praggnanandhaa. “He has been of great help,” she said.

In the first of the four Grand Prix legs, she finished fourth on Sunday.

It was a commendable effort from Vaishali, who made the final draw of the prestigious online event after going through the gruelling qualifiers. The 19-year-old stunned former World champion Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria in the first round and then made short work of Munkhzul Turmunkh of Mongolia to reach the semifinals.

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The India No. 3 fought spiritedly in the last four, but went narrowly down to Ukraine’s Anna Ushenina, who went on to emerge champion.

Vaishali had beaten runner-up Valentina Gunina in the qualifiers to book her berth for the main event. “The qualifying section was pretty tough,” she told Sportstar. “A player gets six chances; while I made it on my fifth attempt, Gunina qualified from her last.”

Vaishali, a former World under-14 and under-12 champion, finds the concept of Speed Chess thrilling. The matches are played in three segments, with games of five, three and one minute durations.

She said playing online chess was exciting. “But it can also be challenging,” she said. “Sometimes your Internet connection may go off or you could end up making a blunder because your mouse lets you down; I lost my queen in one of my games thus.”

Vaishali said she was getting bored during the lockdown in Chennai, which has been badly hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. “So I have been studying for my B. Com course,” said the first-year student at the city’s MOP Vaishnav College.

She will resume her campaign in Speed Chess on Wednesday, when the second leg kicks off.

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