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Women's Premier 2017 Round 10: The leader is cursed!

by Sagar Shah - 05/12/2017

Every time we have a sole leader at the national premier, that player falters. First it was Padmini who was leading the event around the halfway mark, then it was Nandhidhaa, followed by Meenakshi. Now going into the last round we have four leaders Meenakshi, Bhakti, Padmini and Soumya. Meenakshi is still in the pack of leaders in spite of her loss to Kiran, and the lady from Chennai has the best chance of becoming the national champion. The other girls too can steal the show. Our reporters Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal are in Surat and they bring you all the round 10 action!

Four leaders at the end of round 10

"Achoo!" A sneeze jeopardized our plans for National Women's Premier 2017. Amruta and I were scheduled to reach Surat from Pune for the ninth round of the event. However, as things turned out, one day before our scheduled departure, I sneezed! Well it was a normal one just like any other time, but it resulted in a big spasm in my lower back. Nothing really could fix this and so we decided to postpone going to Surat by one day. Covering an event like National Premier for just two days is quite less, but it was imperative. Especially because there were leaders getting dethroned everyday, kings getting mated by pawns and it was obvious that things were going to go down to the wire right until the last day.

Due to all the travel by bus, we reached the tournament hall 30 minutes after the start of the round.

The first thing I noticed as I entered the Surat Tennis Club was the excellent playing hall. Huge and spacious, with white marble floor and pretty pictures of the players adorning the walls. The temperature was just perfect for players to focus. All tables nicely covered with a black cloth and revolving chairs with wheels, mineral water, fruits, tea and refreshments kept ready for the players. If there was something missing it had to be the DGT boards. I wonder why DGT boards were being used for the National (Men's) Premier and not over here?

 

The second thing I noticed was the focus with which each and every girl in the room was playing. Now, I am on good terms with almost all the players. However, none of them even raised their head from the board or greeted me with a smile! Of course, I am going to complain about it after the tournament ends, but for now I was quite proud of the fact how focused and concentrated these girls really were. The National title means a lot to them.

 

Coming to the tenth round, there were three games which were extremely important from the point of view of the final standings in the tournament:

1. Kiran Manisha Mohanty vs S.Meenakshi

2. Srishti Pandey vs P.V. Nandhidhaa

3. Bhakti Kulkarni vs Padmini Rout.

Standings after round 9. Meenakshi was leading by half a point but there were three other players on 6.0/9, who had a chance of overtaking her.

Kiran vs Meenakshi

If there was someone who had a great chance of winning the women's premier title, it had to Meenakshi | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Meenakshi was playing the second last ranked Kiran Manisha Mohanty in the second last round. Kiran has had a pretty dismal event with just 2.0/9. But somehow she managed to pick herself up for this critical encounter. Here is one position that shows you how strong Kiran is as a player:

 

Kiran Manisha Mohanty vs S. Meenakshi, round 10

Black has just retreated the knight from e4 to f6. How should White continue?

Give a pat on your back if you did find the move Qa3!! Once you see the move everything becomes obvious, but to consider a queen move which doubles your a-pawns is quite difficult. The queen on d6 is the heart of Black's position and with Qa3 White decides to get it out. The neat point is that after Qxa3 bxa3 Rc8 White has Rb2! b5 and now the strong a4! with a better position. Meenakshi could have defended better, but it was not to be. The Odisha girl chalked up the full point and Meenakshi missed a golden opportunity to stay in the sole lead for her first national title.

Kiran's win against the Meenakshi means that we are not at all certain who would win the title! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Srishti Pandey vs P.V. Nandhidhaa

Srishti Pandey against Nandhidhaa was one those cases where loss of objectivity leads to a loss of full point | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Meenakshi's defeat meant that Nandhidhaa had her chance to win and grab the sole lead. She did everything right against the last placed Srishti Pandey. She played the opening well and got a nearly winning advantage. However, Srishti held in tight and when the time pressure arrived it was Nandhidhaa's turn to make a big mistake. The position after that was just equal and the players should have agreed to a draw. But Nandhidhaa was drawn towards the sole lead and made many moves which were quite inexplicable. Losing objectivity is one of the diseases that chess players suffer from. The final blunder came when Black played the move ...Bc2.

...Bc2 by Nandhidhaa is a big blunder. Can you find the win?

Srishti didn't miss the opportunity and found Rh8+ Ke7 Nc6+ followed by Nb4 when White had won an exchange.

It speaks volumes about Srishti Pandey's mental strength that she was able to score her first win after being on 1.0/9 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Bhakti vs Padmini

While Nandhidhaa lost her objectivity and lost the game, Padmini showed great control on her emotions. The three time national champion from Odisha, calculated brilliantly, sacrificed a piece and .... made a draw! And it was a great decision because that's what the position demanded. In chess if you respect the position more often than not you are rewarded for that.

This position is better for White. She has plans like h4-h5 and also the bishop will be well placed on h3. But Bhakti played the move d5-d6. This turned out to be an error as after Qf6 followed by Rd8, the pawn started to get quite weak. Yet, Bhakti played resourcefully and we reached the following position:

If you were Black what would you have played?

The first instinct is to defend the king with ...Qg7. However, then White gets Qh4 and you can no longer take the pawn on d6 as Rxd6 is met with Qxd8. Padmini dug deep and found a great combination. It was sufficient only for a draw. But it doesn't really matter, because she was being objective. She found some difficult moves to get the half point and this is what I really like about this game. Padmini went for ....Rxd6! and after Rxd6 Rxd6 she had seen that Qh7+ Kf8 Qh8+ Ke7 Qxb8 leads to a draw after...

...Qf4! threatening ...Qc1+ Bhakti had to play Kf1, when after Qc1+ Kg2 Qg5+ the game ended in a draw.

The fourth national title is important, but more than that it is necessary to respect the position on the board | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Bhakti Kulkarni wasn't sure where exactly did she go wrong! d6?! that was it Bhakti! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Soumya scored a nice win over Sakshi Chitlange | Photo: Amruta Mokal

There wasn't much of a fight between Mary and Samriddhaa Ghosh as Mary dominated the game right from the start until the end | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Bala Kannamma claimed the 50 move rule draw against Swati Ghate. The last capture took place on move 53 and the players had reached move 103 without any captures or pawn moves. Hence, the game was adjudged as a draw | Photo: Amruta Mokal

What can we expect tomorrow?

We have four leaders with 6.5/10: Meenakshi, Bhakti, Soumya and Padmini| Photos: Amruta Mokal

Meenakshi has the best chance because in terms of direct encounter she already has scored victories over Bhakti and Padmini. She has lost her personal encounter against Soumya. So Meenakshi has 2.0/3. Bhakti has a win against Soumya, loss to Meenakshi and a draw against Padmini. Her score is 1.5/3. Soumya has a win over Meenakshi, a draw against Padmini and a loss to Bhakti - so 1.5/3. Lastly Padmini has draws against Soumya and Bhakti and a loss to Meenakshi so it makes it 1.0/3. So in terms of direct encounter Meenakshi has a clear edge.

 

Also when it comes to second tiebreak - Sonneborn Berger Meenakshi is way ahead of the rest as she an SB score of 35.25 while the next player Bhakti is on 31.5.

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
111WGMMeenakshi SubbaramanIND21656,52,035,255,0
23WGMKulkarni BhaktiIND23116,51,531,504,0
37WGMSoumya SwaminathanIND23206,51,528,005,0
48IMPadmini RoutIND23246,51,028,505,0
510WIMNandhidhaa PvIND21906,00,027,755,0
62WGMGomes Mary AnnIND23336,00,026,004,0
76WGMSwati GhateIND22775,50,024,004,0
84WIMChitlange SakshiIND22484,50,015,254,0
95Bala Kannamma PIND20584,00,017,501,0
109Ghosh SamriddhaaIND19883,01,012,501,0
1112WGMKiran Manisha MohantyIND21593,00,014,752,0
121Pandey SrishtiIND18852,00,09,501,0

 

Let's have a look at the pairing for the last round:

If you look at who the four leaders are playing tomorrow, you can sense that all four of them can win their games. Soumya with white is a favourite against Bala Kannamma, Padmini with white also has superior chances against Sakshi Chitlange, Bhakti should win against Samriddhaa Ghosh and Meenakshi with white has superior chances against Srishti Pandey.

 

All in all it looks like Meenakshi has the best chance of becoming the national champion in spite of losing her penultimate game against Kiran.

Doing their job with a smile on their face. Vijayaraghavan V (centre) is the chief arbiter, Vinita Shiotri (deputy arbiter) and Prashant Rawal is the local co-ordinator. It's already 4 p.m. and they haven't had their lunch. It's their passion for work and chess that keeps them going | Photo: Amruta Mokal

When you are in Gujarat, you can expect sumptuous food! Roti, 4 vegetables, dal, rice, papad and chaas! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The battles are over, we look forward to the final day, when the National Champion will be crowned | Photo: Amruta Mokal