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Bhakti Kulkarni is the 44th National Women Challengers Champion!

by Sagar Shah - 30/07/2017

9.5 points in the last ten rounds! That's what Bhakti managed to achieve and with it become the champion of the 44th National Challengers 2017! The second place was taken by Mary Ann Gomes and Soumya Swaminathan finished third. Top eight players qualify for National Premier. Apart from top three, they include Nandhidhaa P.V., Bala Kannamma, Kiran Manisha Mohanty, Parnali Dharia and S. Meenakshi. We have analysis of top three games of the final round and also explanation of who the twelve participants at the National Premier 2017 will be.

Bhakti, Mary and Soumya take the podium

Bhakti Kulkarni was a delighted woman, as she playing some excellent chess on the final day beat Maharashtra's Srishti Pandey on the top board and with 9.5 points from eleven rounds clinched the coveted National title. Playing with white pieces on the top board fifth seeded WGM Bhakti Kulkarni capitalized on the middle game errors by her rival and beat Maharashtra's Srishti Pandey (rating 1930) in just 20 moves to win the title and took home a cash prize of 72,000/- along with a trophy.

The critical top board encounter between Bhakti and Shrishti that decided the champion of the tournament
Bhakti's final Bg6! was a perfect way to finish the tournament. It was much like Carlsen's Qh6! against Karjakin to win the World Championship Match 2016!
[Site "Mysore Sports Club, Mysuru, Ka"]
[Date "2017.07.29"]
[Round "11.1"]
[White "Kulkarni, Bhakti"]
[Black "Pandey, Srishti"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "2255"]
[BlackElo "1930"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "39"]
[EventDate "2017.07.21"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "IND"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bg5 {The Torre Attack supposed to be quite solid and
was a favourite of Tigran Petrosian.} c5 4. e3 Be7 (4... Qb6 {could lead to
sharp play.}) 5. Nbd2 b6 6. c3 Bb7 7. Bd3 d6 8. Qe2 a6 (8... O-O {I think
would be more logical.}) 9. O-O Nbd7 10. e4 {White has a nice edge out of the
opening.} h6 11. Be3 Ng4 $6 {The knight does attack the bishop, but after it
moves to f4, it finds itself misplaced on g4 square.} (11... Qc7 $11) 12. Bf4
h5 13. Nc4 Qb8 (13... Ndf6 14. e5 $16) 14. e5 dxe5 15. dxe5 Ra7 {Black is just
grovelling in this position. A clear triumph of simple play by White.} 16. h3
Nh6 17. Ng5 h4 18. Nd6+ Bxd6 19. exd6 Ng8 20. Bg6 $1 {[%cal Gd3g6] A beautiful
finish. Black's king will be mated in a few moves.} 1-0

Speaking to ChessBase India Bhakti expressed that it is an "amazing feeling and thrilled to come back after a loss in the first round and going on to ultimately win the tournament".

Second seeded WGM Mary Ann Gomes (PSPB), playing with white pieces on the second board registered a win over Tamil Nadu's Bala Kannamma P in 39 moves

Mary secured the runner-up spot with 9 points from eleven rounds and took home a cash prize of Rs.52,800/- along with a trophy. But things could have been very different had Bala Kannamma found an important tactical resource during the game.

Mary (White) has just taken a rook on e7 with her knight. What should Black do? In the game Bala Kannamma took with her knight and was losing after Rxe5. Rxe7 would be the ideal move, but after cxd5 what is it that Bala Kannamma had missed? 

[Site "Mysore Sports Club, Mysuru, Ka"]
[Date "2017.07.29"]
[Round "11.2"]
[White "Gomes, Mary Ann"]
[Black "Bala, Kannamma P"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "2331"]
[BlackElo "1977"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "77"]
[EventDate "2017.07.21"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "IND"]
1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 d4 3. e3 c5 4. exd4 cxd4 5. g3 Nc6 6. d3 e5 7. Bg2 Bd6 8. O-O
Nf6 9. Bg5 h6 10. Bxf6 Qxf6 11. Nbd2 Bf5 12. Ne1 (12. Re1 $5 {should be
interesting as after} Bxd3 13. Qb3 $1 $16 {is a very strong move.}) 12... O-O
13. Ne4 Qe7 14. Nxd6 Qxd6 15. a3 a5 {Black is fine in such positions. The
opening has gone well for Bala Kannamma. But Mary has good experience in such
positions and must have felt confident about her chances.} 16. Nf3 Rab8 17. Rc1
Rfe8 18. Re1 Bh7 19. Nh4 f5 $5 (19... Re7 {Building up the position steadily
could have been more prudent.}) 20. Bd5+ Kh8 21. Nf3 Rbd8 22. Rc2 Re7 23. Rce2
Rde8 24. Qd2 Bg6 25. b4 $5 axb4 26. axb4 Bh5 (26... Nxb4 27. Nxe5 Rxe5 28. Rxe5
Rxe5 29. Rxe5 Qxe5 30. Qxb4 $18) 27. b5 Nb4 28. Nh4 $6 {Mary is alert to all
the tactical possibilities in the position. But this move loses tactically.} (
28. Bxb7 {Although this looks risky it should have been played.}) 28... Nxd5
29. Nxf5 Qd7 30. Nxe7 Nxe7 $2 (30... Rxe7 $1 $19 31. cxd5 Bf3 $3 $19 {An easy
move to miss. There is no way to stop Qh3 mate. White loses.} (31... Bxe2 32.
Qxe2 Qxd5 33. f4 {White will be a pawn up and has chances to win.})) 31. Rxe5
$18 Nf5 32. Qf4 Rxe5 33. Rxe5 Bg6 34. h3 Ne7 35. h4 Bxd3 36. Qf7 Qg4 37. Rxe7
Kh7 38. Re8 Bf5 39. h5 {A very interesting last round game.} 1-0


Top-seed Soumya Swaminathan (PSPB), playing with black pieces on the third board outwitted her rival WIM Rucha Pujari (Mah) in 60 moves.

With 8.5 points Soumya secured the third place and a cash prize of Rs.38,400/- along with the trophy.

[Site "Mysore Sports Club, Mysuru, Ka"]
[Date "2017.07.29"]
[Round "11.3"]
[White "Pujari, Rucha"]
[Black "Soumya, Swaminathan"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "2191"]
[BlackElo "2349"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "106"]
[EventDate "2017.07.21"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "IND"]
1. g3 c5 2. Bg2 Nc6 3. c4 g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. Nf3 e6 6. O-O (6. d4 {is an
interesting pawn sacrifice line.}) 6... Nge7 7. d3 d5 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Bf4 O-O
10. Qc1 b6 11. Bh6 d4 {Black's position with more space and smooth development
is already to be preferred.} 12. Nb5 Be6 13. h4 Qd7 14. a4 Bh3 15. h5 {This
attack by Rucha is not so dangerous, as White does not have any pieces to join
in.} Qg4 (15... Bxg2 16. Kxg2 Rae8 $17) 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. h6+ Kg8 18. Nd6 Bxg2
19. Kxg2 Nd5 20. Rh1 Qe6 21. Ne4 Na5 22. Qe1 Qe7 23. Rc1 Rae8 24. Rc2 (24. Rxc5
$5 bxc5 25. Qxa5 f5 $17) 24... Nb4 25. Rd2 f5 26. Neg5 Nb3 {Black's position
is a picture of co-ordination. Soumya wins an exchange and slowly wraps up the
game.} 27. e4 Nxd2 28. Qxd2 fxe4 29. dxe4 a6 30. e5 Qb7 31. Re1 Qd5 32. Ne4
Rxf3 33. Kxf3 Rxe5 34. g4 Re8 35. Kf4 Qe5+ 36. Kf3 Nd5 37. Kg2 Ne3+ 38. fxe3
Qxe4+ 39. Kg3 g5 40. Qd1 dxe3 41. Qd7 Qf4+ 42. Kh3 Qf3+ 43. Kh2 Qf7 44. Qc6
Qf2+ 45. Kh3 Qh4+ 46. Kg2 Qxg4+ 47. Kh2 Qe6 48. Qg2 Qxh6+ 49. Kg1 Kh8 50. b4
Qh4 51. Re2 Qxb4 52. Qc6 Qg4+ 53. Rg2 Qe6 0-1


WIM Nandhidhaa Pv (AAI) with 8 points finished fourth, while P.Bala Kannamma (TN), WGM Kiran Manisha Mohanty (LIC), WIM Parnali S Dharia (Mah) and WGM Meenakshi Subbaraman (AI) tied with 7.5 points each and based on their tie-break scores secured the places from fifth to eighth in the rankings. The top eight players earned selection to the National 'A' championships to be held at Gujarat. The winners from the 4th to 20th places were given cash prizes and also the top five place winners in the Below 1300, Below 1500 & Below 1800 category were given prizes.

The winner of the tournament Bhakti Kulkarni receives the winner's cheque of Rs.75,000 from AICF Secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan
Experience triumphs! Bhakti, Soumya and Mary didn't have the smoothest of tournaments, but in the end showed that they were a cut above the rest
Nandhidhaa finished fourth
Bala Kannamma played a great tournament and thoroughly deserved her fifth place finish
Kiran Manisha Mohanty made it to the national premier with her sixth place
After many years Mumbai will have a representative at the National Premier in the form of Parnali Dharia!
Meenakshi Subbaraman finished eighth and took the last spot of qualification to the National premier

National Premier 2017:

The women National Premier will be held later this year in Gujarat. It will be a 12 players Round-Robin. This is how the participants will be selected:
  • a)National Women Challengers -08
  • b)National Women Champion -01
  • c)Top three rated -03

(For ‘C’ category the published rating of players one month before the start of the National Challengers will be the criteria to decide top three ELO rated)

New Rule in force from 2017 National Challengers Women’s Championship:

The Women players on or above 2350 ELO rating will get preference over National Challengers while filling up the vacancies caused by the non-participation of top three rated players who are directly seeded along with the National Champion. However if on or above 2350 ELO rated players are also not available, players as per rankings in the National Challengers will become eligible.

Clarification of the rule:

Padmini Rout being the National Premier Champion qualifies. She is joined by eight other players from the 44th National Challengers. Now for the remaining three slots, things are a bit complicated. Three top rated women players will take part in the National Premier. Let's have a look as to who are the top three women players of India as on July 2017.

It should be assumed that Humpy and Harika will not participate in the National Premier. This means that we have only three more players above 2350. They are Tania Sachdev, Eesha Karavade and S. Vijayalakshmi. If the ratings do not change in the next few months (young guys like Aakanksha or Vaishali may overtake others) then we can assume that Tania, Eesha and Viji will qualify for the National premier. However, if any of them does not participate, then ninth, tenth and eleventh place of National Challengers (Samriddha Ghosh, Swati Ghate and Arpita Mukherjee) may have a chance. 

Final standings (Top Eight qualify for National Premier):

Rk. SNo   Name FED Rtg Club/City Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4   TB5 
1 5 WGM Kulkarni Bhakti IND 2255 AI 9,5 0,0 71,0 76,0 66,50 9,0
2 2 WGM Gomes Mary Ann IND 2331 PSPB 9,0 0,0 75,0 80,5 64,25 7,0
3 1 WGM Soumya Swaminathan IND 2349 PSPB 8,5 0,0 74,0 79,5 58,50 7,0
4 7 WIM Nandhidhaa Pv IND 2221 AAI 8,0 0,0 68,0 73,5 52,00 6,0
5 25   Bala Kannamma P IND 1977 TN 7,5 0,0 71,5 76,0 47,00 6,0
6 13 WGM Kiran Manisha Mohanty IND 2170 LIC 7,5 0,0 69,0 74,0 48,00 5,0
7 16 WIM Parnali S Dharia IND 2140 MAH 7,5 0,0 68,0 73,0 47,00 6,0
8 10 WGM Meenakshi Subbaraman IND 2181 AI 7,5 0,0 67,5 72,5 47,25 5,0
9 41   Ghosh Samriddhaa IND 1854 WB 7,5 0,0 67,0 72,0 44,25 7,0
10 3 WGM Swati Ghate IND 2278 LIC 7,5 0,0 66,0 71,5 46,75 6,0
11 19 WFM Arpita Mukherjee IND 2100 WB 7,5 0,0 66,0 71,0 46,75 6,0
12 8 WFM Srija Seshadri IND 2200 DEL 7,5 0,0 64,5 69,5 45,25 6,0
13 32   Pandey Srishti IND 1930 MAH 7,5 0,0 64,0 67,5 42,50 7,0
14 18 WIM Chitlange Sakshi IND 2112 MAH 7,5 0,0 61,5 66,5 44,75 5,0
15 15 WIM Mahalakshmi M IND 2154 TN 7,0 0,0 71,0 75,0 46,00 5,0

Complete list of final standings

Download games in PGN format

About the author

C.K.Muralidharan is a 55-year-old Free-lance Sports Journalist based in Mysore. He has 20 years of experience in sports journalism. He contributes to the Hindu National daily and Daily Star of Mysore on all sports in Mysore for the last 15 years. He has been covering sports in Mysore on his website - He is the promoter of Mysore Professional Chess Academy. IM M.S.Thejkumar is the Vice-President of the Academy and supervises the coaching programme. He works with the Mysore District Chess Association in order to spread the game of chess through the chess in schools program.