Mary Ann Gomes’ moment of glory

Mary Ann Gomes... creditable show.-K.V. SRINIVASAN

The All India Chess Federation’s decision to conduct an International Open Woman Grandmaster Open tournament, as a side event to the World championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen in Chennai, was welcomed with glee by the women players. P.K. Ajith Kumar reports.

With two players in the top 30 and several promising players making steady progress, India is one of the stronger nations in women’s chess. But, the women’s game hasn’t received as much attention as it deserves. So, the All India Chess Federation’s decision to conduct an International Open Woman Grandmaster Open tournament, as a side event to the World championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen in Chennai, was welcomed with glee by the women players.

“I think it was great that we could finally have a tournament of our own,” said Mary Ann Gomes, who won the event and found herself richer by Rs. 2 lakhs. “Yes, this is the biggest prize-money I have ever won in my career.”

Mary Ann, 24, from Kolkata, hopes the tournament would not end up as a one-off affair. “They could have a WGM tournament every year,” she said.

S. Vijayalakshmi, a trailblazer in Indian women’s chess, agreed with her completely. “It is surprising that we never had an Open WGM tournament in this country and I am glad that I could play in one at last,” she said. “Yes, it’s a fact that we are free to compete with men, but we should have more events like this, if we want to promote women’s chess.”

Vijayalakshmi had reasons to be pleased with her own show in the event, staged in her hometown. The fourth seed was tied for the top spot and finished third on tie-breaker. Two consecutive losses, to Nino Batsiasvhili of Georgia and Maria Gevorgyan of Armenia in rounds six and seven, proved costly for her.

Some of The WGMs before the tournament... From left: Ljilja (Serbia), Karina (Russia), Nino Batsiashvili (Georgia), Sopiko Guramishvili (Georgia), Maka (Georgia), Keti (Georgia), Soumya Swaminathan (India), Mary Ann Gomes (India) and Nisha Mohota (India).-K. PICHUMANI

Batsiashvili, seeded second, justified her billing, securing the second spot. Like Mary, the third seed, and Vijayalakshmi, she too scored 8.5 points from 11 rounds. Her compatriot Sopiko Guramishvili didn’t have such a nice outing though at the Jawarlal Nehru Stadium. The top seed could only secure the 10th place. Her loss to Mary in the ninth round decided not only her fate, but that of the tournament too.

The win gave Mary the sole lead, with just two rounds remaining. She ensured that she stayed on top till the end. In the final round, she came across another Georgian, Keti Tsatsalashvili and played out a draw. “We fought for a while, but there was nothing much in the position, so we decided to split the point,” she said. “And I knew that my tie-breaker score was going to be superior, so I felt there was no need to take any risks.”

There was more action in the second and third boards though.

Batsiashvili defeated S. Meenakshi, Vijayalakshmi’s younger sister on the second. On third, Vijayalakshmi overcame Swati Ghate, an old foe.

The Rs. 8-lakh event had attracted quite a few WGMs from countries such as Russia, Serbia, Armenia, Ukraine and Malaysia. There were 100 players in all.