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Interview: Padmini Rout on Chess

by Hinduja Reddy - 05/01/2017

One thing that is common between Magnus Carlsen and Padmini Rout is they both share hat-trick victories. She won the National Women's Premier three times in a row. Known for her fighting and uncompromising playing style, Padmini defended her Women’s National title in 2016 with ease. But the National champion had a different dream in her childhood. In the following interview, she talks about her upcoming Women’s World Cup, her favorite dish, more!

Interview: Padmini Rout on Chess

Photos by Amruta Mokal


She was dreaming of becoming an IIT engineer. But life had different plans in store for young Padmini. At the age of nine, Padmini learned chess from her father Dr. Ashok Kumar Rout, an IIT alumnus and a chess enthusiast. It didn't take much time for her to fall in love with chess. And the rest is history—her prodigious rise has cemented her position as a strong female player in India. 


Born on 5th January 1994, Padmini Rout has had a remarkable career so far, she made a hat-trick by winning National Women Premier Championship three times in a row. Her hunger to win, rigorous work ethics, supportive parents have made it all possible.


Speaking of work ethics, she works 8-10 hours a day and is a great fan of Bhagavad Gita.

Why do you love chess? And what is your motivation to win?

Chess lets me be a scientist and a sports person and an artist all at the same time! Who wouldn’t love chess! Winning makes me happy and that is good enough motivation to win a game.


What is chess for you, an art, science or sport? 

It’s a combination of all three for me but I am more inclined towards sports for the simple fact that at the end of the day, there is competition and only one winner.

 Padmini with her father Dr. Ashok Kumar Rout and mother Sasmita Dhall.  

What role did you father play initially when you started out in chess?

My father taught me chess. I started playing in tournaments when I was in class 5. In our society, the train of thoughts goes like, “Uh the  bacha should be studying”. But my father doesn’t adhere to normality. He totally encouraged me to play chess.


Can you tell us how your trainers/coaches shaped up your game?

I was very fortunate to find IM Neeraj Kumar Mishra when I was around 10. We had a group and he instilled in us the right attitudes. Now I get guidance from GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly which is immensely helpful. 

 Padmini Rout with Grandmasters Surya Sekhar Ganguly and P. Harikrishna. (Photo: Sagar Shah's blog)

Congratulations for your victory at the National Premiers. How do you feel after winning back to back National titles?  Whom would you like to dedicate this title?

Thanks! I am very happy! I would dedicate this title to all my well-wishers who always keep faith in me.


Which is your favorite game from the championship? 

I like the first round game against WIM Pratyusha Bodda. I didn’t get much in the opening but slowly managed to outplay her in the endgame. Morning showed the day.

[Event "Natioal Women Premier 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.11.03"]
[Round "1.2"]
[White "Pratyusha, Bodda"]
[Black "Padmini, Rout"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E21"]
[WhiteElo "2289"]
[BlackElo "2374"]
[PlyCount "128"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[TimeControl "5400+30"]
[WhiteClock "0:00:32"]
[BlackClock "0:01:35"]
1. d4 {18} Nf6 {0} 2. c4 {14} e6 {0} 3. Nc3 {13} Bb4 {5} 4. Nf3 {16} O-O {18}
5. Bg5 {19} c5 {359} 6. Qb3 {117} Nc6 {151} 7. e3 {60} d5 {561} 8. cxd5 {486}
exd5 {24} 9. dxc5 {732} Be6 {524} 10. Nd4 {259} Bxc5 {35} 11. Nxe6 {161} fxe6 {
5} 12. Be2 {76} Qe7 {557} 13. O-O {151} a6 {115} 14. Rac1 {226} Kh8 {242} 15.
Bd3 {239} Bd6 {372} 16. h3 {61} Rab8 {402} 17. Bh4 {234} Qf7 {151} 18. Qd1 {176
} Ne5 {387} 19. Bb1 Nc4 20. b3 {615} Na3 {83} 21. Bd3 {58} Rbc8 {88} 22. Qe2 {
291} Nd7 {326} 23. Nb1 {445} Rxc1 {599} 24. Rxc1 {46} Ne5 {19} 25. Nxa3 {149}
Bxa3 {44} 26. Rc2 {9} Nxd3 {72} 27. Qxd3 {40} Bd6 {20} 28. f4 {437} h6 {139}
29. Be1 {64} Kg8 {167} 30. g3 {140} Qf5 {610} 31. Qxf5 {146} exf5 {2} 32. Ba5 {
66} Kf7 {39} 33. g4 {58} Ke6 {54} 34. gxf5+ {106} Kxf5 {92} 35. Bb6 {9} Rg8 {85
} 36. Rd2 {214} Ke6 {19} 37. Rg2 {59} g5 {45} 38. Bd4 {63} Kf5 {27} 39. fxg5 {
156} hxg5 {94} 40. Rf2+ {101} Ke4 {6} 41. Rf6 {0} Bb8 {0} 42. Rf7 {0} Rc8 {0}
43. Kg2 {0} Rc2+ {0} 44. Rf2 {0} Rc1 {0} 45. Rf7 {0} Bd6 {0} 46. Rf6 {0} Rc2+ {
0} 47. Rf2 {0} Rc6 {0} 48. Rf7 {0} b5 {0} 49. Rf6 {0} Rc2+ {0} 50. Rf2 {0} Kd3
{0} 51. Bf6 {131} Rxf2+ {106} 52. Kxf2 {45} Kc2 {9} 53. Ke2 {29} b4 {233} 54.
Bxg5 {100} Kb2 {29} 55. Kd3 {18} Kxa2 {28} 56. Kd4 {4} Kxb3 {46} 57. Kxd5 {4}
Bf8 {57} 58. Bf6 {22} a5 {10} 59. e4 {356} a4 {37} 60. Ke6 {65} Kc2 {18} 61.
Kf7 Bc5 62. h4 {56} b3 {36} 63. h5 {14} Be3 {60} 64. Kg6 {114} a3 {18} 0-1


Morning showed the day.

You were leading the tournament from game 4. What kind of psychological pressure did you face for the next rounds?

I tried to remain very calm and towards the end, I ate my trainer’s head. Everyone survived eventually!


IM Vijayalakshmi S was a close contender. Round 8 was more or less a crucial match. Can you comment about that game?

Her 35...Nc3-a2 knight maneuver was a big surprise for me but definitely a pleasant one. I got a huge attack on her king which eventually led to victory.

[Event "43rd Indian Women Premier Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.11.11"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Padmini, Rout"]
[Black "Vijayalakshmi, Subbaraman"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C84"]
[PlyCount "97"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 d6 7. c3 O-O 8. Re1
Bg4 9. h3 Bh5 10. Nbd2 Re8 11. Nf1 Nd7 12. Bc2 Nf8 13. Ng3 Bg6 14. d4 exd4 15.
cxd4 d5 16. e5 Ne6 17. Be3 Na5 18. b3 b6 19. Nf5 Bf8 20. Bd2 Nc6 21. Bc3 Na7
22. Ne3 Nb5 23. Bxg6 hxg6 24. Bb2 c5 25. dxc5 d4 26. Nc4 bxc5 27. g3 Nbc7 28.
Nfd2 Nd5 29. Kg2 a5 30. a4 Qc7 31. Ba3 Reb8 32. h4 Ra7 33. Qf3 Qd8 34. Rh1 Rab7
35. Rae1 Nc3 36. Bb2 Na2 37. h5 g5 38. h6 g6 39. h7+ Kh8 40. Ne4 f5 41. exf6
Rxh7 42. Ne5 Rbb7 43. Nd6 Bxd6 44. Qxb7 Qc7 45. Rxh7+ Kxh7 46. Rh1+ Kg8 47. Qd5
Qc8 48. Qxd6 Nb4 49. Qe7 1-0

How was your experience in the Baku Olympiad 2016? 

Personally, I didn’t have a good experience as it seemed I was not in good form but on paper the team did fine.


The biggest problem faced by women chess players in India is travel. Do you travel alone to tournaments these days? 

Nowadays I travel alone. Although I like to travel with friends but solitude never really bothered me so, either way, it's fine.

IM Nisha Mohota had written an entire article on Women's chess in India.  

What do you think can be done to improve Women's chess in India?

Women should play more in Open tournaments and show their real potential. Will be nice to have more strong open and closed events in India.


There has been an uproar and protests when Iran was awarded as the venue for the Women's World Cup. Your take on Hijab controversy?

First of all, I am very eager to play in my first World Cup. There are many aspects to it and it will be a long debate and I can speak from both sides. I have played in Iran before and it was fine.


 Any specific playing strategy for the upcoming World Cup?

Let the tournament begin and we (I) shall know!


Which is the best game of your career so far? 

I am yet to play my best games. So far there are only fragments of games which I am proud of. 


How do you react to losses in tournaments?

I think I react pretty well since I make good comebacks. Losses bring you back to the reality of life. And one should not take life so seriously.


Do you follow any specific diet? What is your fitness routine?

Since chess players have to travel a lot I feel they should not be very picky about their food. As long as it is healthy I am fine with any kind of food. My favorite food is whatever my mom cooks. More specifically the chili chicken!


What do you do in your free time?

I chill out, but right now I am doing something different!

Padmini Rout is seen trekking at the Giri Ganga mountains (Source: Padmini's Instagram) 

How does reading Bhagavad Gita every day help you personally?

It has given me the attitude to do my work honestly and not think about the results.


What kind of music do you enjoy listening to? 

I like old soothing songs.


Any favorite chess books?

I absolutely love reading chess books. My first 'book crush' was Mikhail Tal’s ‘The Life and Games’. Of late, I have taken a liking for Boris Gelfand’s ‘Positional Decision Making’.


Do you follow other sports? Who is your favorite player in India?

I enjoyed Badminton matches of P.V. Sindhu recently. Liked her playing style very much.


Do you have any pets at home? Cats vs. dogs?

I don’t have any pets (yet). I love cat families! The bigger the better!


As a chess professional, what is your ultimate goal in chess?

Make every corner of the world play chess!


Any tips/advice for upcoming female players?

I think they should love and enjoy the game and aim high.


All the best for your next tournaments!

Thanks a lot.

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