All for a noble cause

The victorious Maharashtra women's team.-

Maharashtra defeated a Rest of Indian team in a unique match — the first of its kind in the country — for the Sanjay Kakade Group Trophy held in Pune. By P. K. Ajith Kumar.

Maharashtra is the queen in Indian chess. Of India's 37 National champions, 23 are from Maharashtra.

The champion State did no harm to its reputation when it defeated a Rest of Indian team in a unique match — the first of its kind in the country — for the Sanjay Kakade Group Trophy held in Pune in the last week of February. The three-day event, featuring some of India's finest women players (all Woman Grandmasters), was organised by Symbiosis Spa.

The match pitted Maharashtra's Soumya Swaminathan, Swati Ghate, Eesha Karvade and Kruttika Nadig (all from Pune, in fact) against Tania Sachdev, Mary Ann Gomes, Nisha Mohota and Padmini Rout. The host wasn't the favourite though; its rival had a significantly higher average rating and looked more balanced. While Maharashtra's average rating was 2285.5, the Rest of India's was 2373.5.

But sport is all about performance and the four Maharashtra women performed with spirit to overcome their stronger rivals that comprised players from Delhi, Kolkata and Orissa.

The match, over eight rounds, was contested in an interesting format. Every player faced all the players from the rival side twice — in rapid and blindfold. Maharashtra won by one point in the end — 16.5-15.5. Going into the final round, the host had a lead of one point. That round was tied 2-2 and Maharashtra triumphed.

Eesha was the star performer for the host, scoring five points, out of a possible eight. Rest of India's Padmini did even better though, scoring 5.5 points. All the eight players also gave simultaneous displays, against 120 schoolchildren from Pune.

“We organised the event as part of our campaign against female foeticide,” said Satish Thigale, director, Symbiosis Spa. “It was Pune-based Grandamster Abhijit Kunte who came up with this idea of having a match featuring India's top players. We are delighted that it was a success and it was followed live on the internet by thousands of chess enthusiasts.”

Tania said she enjoyed playing in the match. “It was great fun being part of the event,” she said. “It was an excellent concept and it was executed well by the organisers. I was playing blindfold chess for the first time and though I was nervous in the beginning, it turned out to be a truly memorable experience. I think chess could be marketed in India with events like this.”