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Priyanka Nutakki wins SPF Girls' Invitational Online and scholarship worth $60000

by Shahid Ahmed - 26/06/2020

17-year old WIM Priyanka Nutakki of Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh won her biggest online tournament on Sunday 21st June as she won her first Armageddon match ever against IM-elect WGM Anna Sargsyan of Armenia in SPF Girls' Invitational Online Championship 2020. She scored an unbeaten 6.5/7 in the Swiss league format then she prevailed Semi-Final and Final to win the event. She won $600 cash prize and a scholarship at Webster University worth $60000 along with an invitation to SPICE Cup which will take place in October 2020. In this article we get to know her mindset, what it means to win the tournament and more along with her best game annotated by the former National, Asian and World Youth Gold medalist Priyanka Nutakki herself.

Priyanka Nutakki wins her biggest online tournament

WIM Priyanka Nutakki scored an unbeaten 6.5/7 in Susan Polgar Foundation Girls’ Invitational Online Championship 2020. Then she defeated WGM Anna Sargsyan in the Armageddon match in the Finals to win the tournament. She won US $600 cash prize, an invitation to participate in SPICE Cup 2020 and Webster University Scholarship worth $60000. The tournament had a time control of 15+2 with a 7-round Swiss League system. Top four players played in a Semi-Final and Priyanka was one of the finalist along with her opponent Anna Sargsyan. She won the first game but lost the second one in the final, resulting in an Armageddon.

Priyanka won her biggest online tournament ever

After the tournament got over, we decided to ask about her monumental feat.


Shahid Ahmed (SA): Congratulations for winning SPF Invitational Online. Is this your biggest achievement in an online tournament?

Priyanka Nutakki (PN): Yes, it is my biggest achievement in an online tournament. I hardly played any and this is definitely one of the best tournaments for me till date considering the time it happened. During this Pandemic, this has helped me in keeping my competitive spirit intact and winning this means a lot.


SA: You got to know about the tournament 2-3 days before it took place. Were you prepared for a tournament like this?

PN: No, I didn’t see anything as such coming my way. I was doing my regular practice and when I came across this opportunity, I wanted to give it my best shot.

Priyanka plays ChessBase India Online Blitz events regularly and won Best Woman multiple times | Photo: Niklesh Jain

SA: What does it mean to you personally winning over US $60000 scholarship and a trip to SPICE Cup 2020?

PN: It definitely means a lot considering it is a strong boost to my chess career as well as my academics. It has definitely helped to build my morale and taking a valuable step ahead at this point of tough time we all are in. I am eagerly looking forward to be at SPICE Cup 2020.

GM Pentala Harikrishna won SPICE Cup in 2008

SA: What is your parent's reaction to your triumphant performance?

PN: My parents have been supportive throughout and they were so sure I would make it to the Top two. They are extremely happy and proud, and I am happy I could keep their belief in me alive.


SA: Which game was your best in the tournament?

PN: I was really happy with the way I have played against Gergana Peycheva in the Semi-Final.

SA: Was it your first Armageddon game? How was it like playing an Armageddon and winning the tournament?

PN: Yes, it was my first Armageddon game, it was quite pressurizing as I had the white pieces and I had to win in order to win the tournament.


SA: Were you okay with 15+2 time control or would have preferred something else?

PN: I guess this is fine for an online tournament and I didn’t have any second thoughts on how this could have been conducted.

Priyanka won National Under-11 girls in 2013 | Photo: IA Gopakumar Sudhakaran

SA: Who was the strongest opponent you faced in the tournament?

PN: I would say my match against Anna Sargsyan was quite an intense one.

SA: The tournament had an always webcam and mic on rule, do you think this is a good measure to curb cheating in online chess?

PN: Integrity is always at stake when it's an online tournament. That is the main reason I don’t prefer competing online. But the way this tournament is conducted to avoid possibilities of cheating, I felt the real game would come out although it is online. I really appreciate the thought and implementation.


SA: You have won Gold, Silver and Bronze in National, Asian and World Youth events. Where does this performance stand?

PN: All the above-mentioned achievements are close to my heart but this one is special as it could be a turning point of my life.

Priyanka receives her World Youth Under-10 Girls Gold medal and trophy from the legendary Garry Kasparov

SA: Did you get an opportunity to interact with Susan Polgar after your triumph?

PN: Yes, I did get a chance to interact with her online, and meeting such people is always a pleasure as you have lots to learn from such experienced people.

Priyanka interacted with Susan Polgar on Alexandra Botez's livestream | Photo: Susan Polgar

SA: How are you dealing with the present situation of absence of over-the-board events and the prevalence of online tournaments?

PN: Missing out on over-the-board tournaments is definitely a drop as I am at the peak stage of shaping my career. I had dreamt of being an IM by the end of the year and had planned everything as per it. This is some unexpected event for the world and we have nothing to do except for living with it. I am keeping my practice and hard work intact with the best motive to bounce back when it gets normal. During these tough times, such online tournaments have been soothing to some extent and I am looking forward to such events before it gets back to the way it was.


SA: What was your coach GM Swayams Mishra advice before you played the event and after you won it?

PN: My coach was the one who thought I should play in this tournament and he has been strong support throughout. He asked me to be myself, calm and confident and by this, I could definitely make it through. Post the games, he discussed where I played well and where I could have done better.

India's 62nd GM Swayams Mishra is also a FIDE Trainer

We reached out to GM Swayams Mishra for his thoughts on Priyanka's success and this is what he had to say

"I think it's a great achievement, especially at this time when we are locked up. Along with GM Farrukh Amonatov, I am training Priyanka for around six months now. I won't say she is a very obedient student, but she is serious about her chess career, and I don't think there's a dilemma there. Before coronavirus happened, she has played tournaments where she had a great start but a terrible finish. However, she went on to play the next tournament with the same enthusiasm. So I feel she's a person who always chases silver lining, and that's exactly what she did here. When I got the prospectus for the tournament, I thought it's a good opportunity for my students to play rapid games, but perhaps due to the late-night games not many were very enthusiastic. However, Priyanka participated and created her silver lining amidst the pandemic.

She played some really strong games & was able to control her nerves better in the armageddon match in the finals.

I don't know what decision she will take regarding the scholarship, but this is undoubtedly a life-changing opportunity."

GM Farrukh Amonatov is also training Priyanka along with Swayams | Photo: Angela Frank Jain

SA: Thank you Priyanka for taking the time to answer all these questions, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

PN: Thank you so much for reaching out to me and for the best wishes. I hope the world fights through this tough time with the least possible losses.


Previous coverage on WIM Priyanka Nutakki

Priyanka Nutakki after her win over R. Vaishali at World Juniors 2019 | Video: Sagar Shah
Priyanka Nutakki makes her maiden WGM norm at the Rilton Cup 2018-19 | Video: Rupali Mullick
R Rathneesh held Priyanka Nutakki to a draw at 2nd Goa GM Open 2019 | Video: Shahid Ahmed


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