Showing promise

N. Priyanka-CH. VIJAYA BHASKAR

N. Priyanka is only 10 years old, but she announced her arrival in an impressive manner by winning six gold medals in the Asian Youth Chess Championship. By J. R. Shridharan.

Nutakki Priyanka (Elo 1593) brought smiles to the faces of the chess administrators of Vijayawada by winning six gold medals in the Asian Youth Chess Championship in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka, recently. The 10-year old announced her arrival in an impressive manner by claiming the medals in the rapid, classic and blitz segments, both in the individual and team events, of the tournament.

“Priyanka prepared well for the tournament and she won the titles with the help of her pet openings like the English and Sicilian Defence. She did well in both middle and endgames to befuddle her opponents. She was down against Serikbay Assel of Kazakhstan in the third game of the classic format, but showed good temperament to bounce back and win comfortably,” said her coach V. R. Bobba, who was the personal coach of Grandmaster Pendyla Harikrishna in his formative years.

Priyanka proved that she was made of stern stuff while playing against Tran Vuong Mai Khanh of Vietnam, rated 265 points above her. “From a losing position, I was able to put pressure on her by unleashing a couple of tactical moves,” said the Standard V student of the Mustabada Educational Society.

The Asian Youth Championship also taught the young champion an unforgettable lesson — not to relax while playing against an unrated player.

“After five wins and two draws, I took Abudali Sama, an unrated player from Kazakhstan, lightly. I paid the penalty as I was concentrating only on the queenside, leaving a yawning gap on the kingside. I earned the wrath of my coach for my lapse,” said Priyanka.

When asked if she was nervous playing her first major tournament abroad, Priyanka said she had butterflies in the stomach, but her victory in the rapid segment boosted her confidence.

“No one took note of her until she won four points in a row in the classic format and beat two better-ranked players,” said Bobba.

Priyanka will now prepare for the World Under-10 Championship, to be held in Slovenia in November. “She will be undergoing a different kind of coaching. We are planning to rope in former National ‘B’ player S. Vijayasaradhy and G. Murali Krishna, the coach of GM M. R. Lalith Babu,” Bobba said.

“For her age, Priyanka has a mature head on her shoulders. She maintains balance even in a losing position and adopts natural pawn breaking in a systematic manner. She is aggressive and understands time pressure well,” said her coach.

In the Asian Youth Championship in Sri Lanka, the other Indian medal winners were Abhilash Reddy (U-18) and G. Lasya (U-16). They claimed three medals each.