Teen Mounika splits points with GM Jha after a five-hour battle

Playing against an Indian Grandmaster for the first time, the 14-year-old held former champion Sriram Jha and provided the biggest first-round surprise in the National Challenger chess championship here on Sunday.

B. Mounika Akshaya (right) makes a move during her 100-move draw with former champion Grandmaster Sriram Jha in the first round of the National Challengers chess championship in Ahmedabad on Sunday.   -  Rakesh Rao

It took 14-year-old B. Mounika Akshaya 100 moves spread over five hours and 10 minutes to gain the most memorable result of a career that promises a great deal.

Playing against an Indian Grandmaster for the first time, the tenacious Guntur-girl held former champion Sriram Jha and provided the biggest first-round surprise in the National Challenger chess championship here on Sunday.

After all serious contenders opened their campaign with expected victories, Jha finally bowed to the gritty display of the youngster after all his efforts for a breakthrough came failed to bear any fruit.

In what was the penultimate game – out of 127 contests – to finish, Jha was left shaking in head in disbelief but was quick to praise his determined rival. “She gave me no chance at all. She was solid right through. It was amazing how well-prepared she was.”

In fact, Jha was not aware that Mounika opted for Slav Defence for the first time. “I was very sleepy and did not have time to prepare today as I was searching for a room. I have never played Slav but it was nice today,” said Mounika who played 37 successive queen-moves at one point and could have claimed a draw since there was no pawn-move or pawn-capture for the stipulated over 50 moves.

Among the International Masters, Jha’s LIC team-mate Dinesh Kumar Sharma was the only one to lose. He fell to local challenger Kartavya Anadat in 37 moves. Air-India’s S. Satyapragyan and Tamil Nadu’s Niranjan Navalgund were held by far lesser-rated rivals.

Two of the leading ladies in the fray had contrasting victories.

National champion Padmini Rout was taken to the fifth hour by Mahitosh Dey, after Mary Ann Gomes defeated her blind rival Ashvin Makwana.

Leading results:

First round: R. Mohith lost to Aravindh Chithambaram; S. L. Narayanan bt Neelabh Jyoti Borthakur; Karan Trivedi lost to M. R. Lalith Babu; N. Srinath bt Sambit Panda; Senh Dave lost to Swapnil Dhopade; Himanshu Sharma bt Rahul Kumar; Aryan lost to Abhijit Kunte; Debashis Das bt Himanshu Harsh; Vishal Vikee lost to M. S. Thej Kumar; Deepan Chakkravarthy bt Lalzawmliana.

Other results: S. Satyapragyan drew with Chaitanya Sairam Mogili; Sriram Jha drew with B. Mounika Akshaya; Amid Khalid drew with Niranjan Navalgund; Dinesh Kumar Sharma lost to Kartavya Anadkat.