After a well-deserved break, the ladies will be back before the board on Saturday, as the Iwasa 44th National women’s premier chess championship resumes at the Surat Tennis Club. With five rounds remaining, the fight for the ultimate crown in the domestic chess for women is very much on.
Padmini Rout, the winner of the last three editions, is in the sole lead position, but, as she herself pointed out, there is quite some way to go yet. She should be pleased though that she has a lead of one full point ahead of nearest rivals.
The amiable, young woman from Bhubaneswar has five points and has played easily the most consistent, solid chess here over the past week. The only game in which she looked a bit shaky was the one against the much lower-rated Samridhaa Ghosh in the fifth round, which was drawn.
And she is the only player who has remained unbeaten thus far. Padmini began the tournament as the second seed. The top seed, Mary Ann Gomes, has managed only 3.5 points and is placed sixth. She needs to score heavily in the second half of the tournament to close in on Padmini.
There are four players on four points – P.V. Nandhidhaa, Soumya Swaminathan, S. Meenakshi and Bhakti Kulkarni. While Meenakshi has done well on her comeback to the event after a gap of three years, her young Tamil Nadu teammate Nandhidhaa once again showed that she was growing rapidly as a player.
Soumya and Bhakti too could afford to dreams of a strong finish, but they need to be a bit more consistent than they were in the opening half. As for the likes of Srishti Pandey, P. Bala Kannamma and Samriddhaa, they would go on gaining the experience of playing in a strong tournament though they are unlikely to reach anywhere near the podium.
The first six rounds had produced some extremely fighting chess. It should get even more intense in the last five.