She had never beaten Padmini Rout before.

S. Meenakshi could not have timed her win better, as it put her among the leaders at the end of the seventh round of the Iwasa 44th National women’s premier chess championship at the Surat Tennis Club on Saturday.

For Padmini, the winner of the last three editions, it was the first loss of the tournament. She, however, is still in the lead, which she shares with P.V. Nandhidhaa, Soumya Swaminathan and Meenakshi. They are on five points, half-a-point ahead of Bhakti Kulkarni, who was held to a draw by a much lesser-rated P. Bala Kannamma.

That game turned out to be the only draw of the day.

Kannamma did well to take half-a-point from the Spanish Game, which reached a knight-ending before the women signed peace on the 70th move. It was another creditable draw for the Tamil Nadu player. It, in fact, was a fine day for the southern State, with Meenakshi and Nandhidhaa posting crucial victories.

Meenakshi, of course, was happier of the two; she had stunned the unbeaten top seed and was returning to the Premiers after a long break. “I am glad that I could finally beat Padmini, as I had a bad score against her,” said the Air India player from Chennai.

“This victory means a lot to me because she is one of the strongest players in India.” She was speaking shortly after Padmini resigned following the 47th move from Meenakshi, who played from the black side of a Reti Opening.

At that time, white was two passed pawns down. It was always going to be difficult for her after she blundered a queen-side pawn on the 32nd move.

In a Sicilian Taimanov variation, Nandhidhaa did well to convert the advantage handed out to her by Samriddhaa Ghosh, who had erred with her rook on the 42nd move. Completely back to the wall in minor piece ending, white resigned after 62 moves.

The other debutante, Srishti Pandey, too made a decisive mistake at an playable position in her Grunfeld game against Soumya. After going for the wrong capture on the 34th move, she went from bad to worse. Mate was just three moves away when Black resigned, on the 50th move.

Meanwhile, top seed Mary Ann Gomes’s poor form continued. She was beaten by Swati Ghate in 48 moves of Sicilian Defence.