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Exciting chess in first three rounds of Velammal-AICF WGM Round Robin

by Sagar Shah - 30/01/2019

While strong male players are constantly being churned out from the country, women's chess has been a matter of worry for the current administration of AICF. In order to set this problem straight they have decided to seriously invest in bringing world class international players to India and give a chance to the young talents to fight it out against them in Round Robin format. The six Indian girls who have got a chance in the Velammal-AICF WGM Round Robin tournament are Michelle Catherina, Varshini, Divya Deshmukh, Aakanksha Hagawane, Saloni Sapale and Chandreyee Hajra. The international players are Nakhbayeva, Munguuntuul, Osmak, Uuriinuya, Babiy and Franco. Olga Babiy from Ukraine is leading the event with 3.0/3. On her heels is India's future in women's chess WIM Divya Deshmukh. An illustrated report with pictures from Chennai by Niklesh Jain.

Staying true to their aim of powering women's chess in the country, the AICF has organized the Velammal - AICF International Women GM Round Robin Tournament 2019. This is the third such event that the national chess federation has organized in a year now, the first one being in Mumbai in June, the second one in Hyderabad in August and now this one in Chennai. The idea is to give six of our talented young WIMs a chance to fight it out against International IMs and WGMs and try to score their WGM or IM norms. The title sponsors of the event are Velammal institute.

Starting rank list of players

9IMMunguntuul Batkhuyag4900758MGL2428w
12IMOsmak Iulija14101602UKR2394w
1IMNakhbayeva Guliskhan13704788KAZ2336w
2WGMUuriintuya Uurtsaikh4900227MGL2314w
3WGMBabiy Olga14117258UKR2275w
4WIMAakanksha Hagawane25014510IND2259w
8WIMSapale Saloni5085527IND2198w
6WIMMichelle Catherina P5005736IND2175w
10WIMVarshini V5091241IND2171w
7WIMDivya Deshmukh35006916IND2168w
11WIMFranco Valencia Angela4403070COL2107w
5WIMChandreyee Hajra5056535IND1925w

One could say that there are six Indian players and six international, but at the same time the penultimate seed in the event is Angela Franco. Although from Colombia, she is now married to ChessBase India Hindi's editor-in-chief Niklesh Jain and lives in Katni, Madhya Pradesh. So can we say seven Indians and five international players?!

Sitting (from left to right): Lulija Osmak (2394), Olga Babiy (2275), Guliskhan Nakhbayeva (2336), Batkhuyag Munguntuul (2428), Uurtsaikh Uuriintuya (2314) and Angela Franco (2107). Standing (from left to right): Catherina Michelle (2175), V. Varshini (2171), Saloni Sapale (2198), Chandreyee Hajra (1925), Divya Deshmukh (2168) and Aakanksha Hagawane (2259) | Photo: Niklesh Jain

It's nice to see so much excitement among the youngsters of Chennai for this unique event | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Former AICF Secretary V. Hariharan | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Stephen Balsamy, the tournament director, lights the lamp | Photo: Niklesh Jain

WGM Aarthie Ramaswamy, the former World Youth Champion and one of India's finest chess players in the past, was a guest at the opening ceremony. She is welcomed by the chief arbiter of the tournament Bhuvana Sai | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The tournament is opened by Aarthie and the top seed of the tournament Batkhuyag Munguntuul. Sicilian it is! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The International players are all felicitated and welcomed with shawls and garlands! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Indians surely do know how to welcome their guests! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Three rounds have been played at the event. 28th of January was the first round and there were two rounds on 29th. That's how things look after three rounds:

Ranking crosstable after Round 3

Rk.NameRtgFED123456789101112Pts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4 
1WGMBabiy Olga2275UKR*1113,00,03,5031
2WIMDivya Deshmukh2168IND*½112,50,03,5021
3WIMMichelle Catherina P2175IND½*½12,00,53,2511
4IMMunguntuul Batkhuyag2428MGL½*½12,00,52,2510
5WIMAakanksha Hagawane2259IND½*011,50,02,0010
6WIMVarshini V2171IND01*½1,50,01,7510
7IMOsmak Iulija2394UKR0*1½1,50,01,2511
8WIMSapale Saloni2198IND00*11,00,00,5011
WIMFranco Valencia Angela2107COL00*11,00,00,5011
10IMNakhbayeva Guliskhan2336KAZ00*11,00,00,5010
11WGMUuriintuya Uurtsaikh2314MGL½00*0,50,00,7500
WIMChandreyee Hajra1925IND0½0*0,50,00,7500

Olga Babiy has started off with three wins out of three games by beating V. Varshini, Angela Franco and Guliskhan Nakhbayeva.

Varshini got a completely minus position in the Sicilian Najdorf against Olga Babiy in just a few moves | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Babiy vs Varshini, Round 1

It started as the Najdorf and within 15 moves White has a completely dominating position. How did this happen? Let's find out:

The youngest participant in the event, Divya Deshmukh is on 2.5/3 | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Lulija Osmak vs Divya Deshmukh. Round 2

White's last move in this position was Rh3xh7?!! Divya didn't really understand what was going on! She picked up the d7 rook, and then the h7 rook with the queen! A free rook.

But Divya also showcased some high quality chess in round three when she got the better of Saloni Sapale in nice positional style.


Divya vs Saloni, Round 3

How should White continue in this position?

It was clear to Divya that her knight on f3 was not well placed and needed to be rerouted. She played Ne1! which was a fine move. The knight will come to e3 via g2 and this led to a clearly better position for Divya.

Perhaps the most interesting game from the point of view of unusual moves has been Varshini against Aakanksha | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Varshini vs Aakanksha, round 2

The rook enters the position with Re8! Usually such blows are finishing moves, but Aakanksha kept her cool and found Qc7!

Varshini didn't relent and played her knight to c8, which forced Black to sacrifice her queen with Rxe8. The position was around even, but then Black got a great chance...

...Black to play and win!

It was a disappointing defeat for Aakanksha. Full credit to Varshini for playing exciting chess! Check out what Hagawane had missed:

The biggest blunder of the tournament was played by Chandreyee Hajra in her second round encounter against Munguntuul:

Munguntuul vs Hajra, round 2

Hajra has just played her pawn to c5. What did she miss?

Press officer RR Vasudevan with the hoardings dedicated to individual players | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Excellent rooms and facilities provided to the players | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Results of Round 1:

11KAZ2336IMNakhbayeva Guliskhan0 - 1IMOsmak IulijaUKR239412
22MGL2314WGMUuriintuya Uurtsaikh0 - 1WIMFranco Valencia AngelaCOL210711
33UKR2275WGMBabiy Olga1 - 0WIMVarshini VIND217110
44IND2259WIMAakanksha Hagawane½ - ½IMMunguntuul BatkhuyagMGL24289
55IND1925WIMChandreyee Hajra0 - 1WIMSapale SaloniIND21988
66IND2175WIMMichelle Catherina P½ - ½WIMDivya DeshmukhIND21687

Results of Round 2:

112UKR2394IMOsmak Iulija0 - 1WIMDivya DeshmukhIND21687
28IND2198WIMSapale Saloni0 - 1WIMMichelle Catherina PIND21756
39MGL2428IMMunguntuul Batkhuyag1 - 0WIMChandreyee HajraIND19255
410IND2171WIMVarshini V1 - 0WIMAakanksha HagawaneIND22594
511COL2107WIMFranco Valencia Angela0 - 1WGMBabiy OlgaUKR22753
61KAZ2336IMNakhbayeva Guliskhan1 - 0WGMUuriintuya UurtsaikhMGL23142

Results of Round 3:

12MGL2314WGMUuriintuya Uurtsaikh½ - ½IMOsmak IulijaUKR239412
23UKR2275WGMBabiy Olga1 - 0IMNakhbayeva GuliskhanKAZ23361
34IND2259WIMAakanksha Hagawane1 - 0WIMFranco Valencia AngelaCOL210711
45IND1925WIMChandreyee Hajra½ - ½WIMVarshini VIND217110
56IND2175WIMMichelle Catherina P½ - ½IMMunguntuul BatkhuyagMGL24289
67IND2168WIMDivya Deshmukh1 - 0WIMSapale SaloniIND21988

Will someone be able to stop Olga Babiy? (right) | Photo: Niklesh Jain

One has to commend the work done by AICF here. They are giving an opportunity to the young talents of Indian chess to fight against experienced and strong international women players. Yes, there are games with mistakes and errors. But with this experience you can be sure that they will improve and move forward. Take the example of Rakshitta Ravi. She scored just 0.5/11 in the first AICF women's Round Robin tournament held in Mumbai. It was a painful event for her. But she learnt her lessons and within six months she was already a WIM!

Watch round 4 live

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