National Women's Championship: Bhakti, Mary and Mahalakshmi share tournament lead
The pole position has been extremely volatile at the National Women's Chess Championship in Jaipur, Rajasthan. After seven rounds, three players have managed to reach the top of the leaderboard -- Bhakti Kulkarni, Mary Ann Gomes and Mahalakshmi M. Mary was the sole leader of the tournament after round six. In the seventh round, she managed to defend a tough position against Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman in order to remain in the lead. However, Bhakti and Mahalakshmi had caught up with her. While Mahalakshmi defeated Kiran Manisha Mohanty in the seventh round, Bhakti Kulkarni got the better of Nisha Mohota in the rare Schlechter variation of the French with white.
Seven players were leading after the first three round of the ongoing Women's National Championship in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Four rounds later, the numbers have reversed -- three players have taken the lead after round seven. Having won their games in the seventh round, Mahalakshmi M (2198) and Bhakti Kulkarni (2256) joined Mary Ann Gomes (2286) at the top of the leaderboard. All three players have scored 6 points out of their first seven games.
Meanwhile, the top seed of the tournament, IM Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman (2365), WGM Swati Ghate (2256) and WIM Michelle Catherina (2182) have remained within striking distance of the leaders at 5.5/5. Another half point behind is a horde of eleven players, all of whom share the same score at 5.0/7. With four more rounds to go, the tournament is undoubtedly wide open.
The pole position in the tournament has been extremely volatile thus far. Of the seven players who had emerged as leaders in the third round, only one was able to keep her perfect score after the dust of the battles of the fourth round had settled -- WIM Mahalakshmi M. Mahalakshmi was pitted against one of the two sub-1800 rated players in the leading pack, Andria D'Souza (1754). The other player of this duo Vrushali Deodhar (1793) went on to score yet another upset, holding the fifth-seeded Swati Ghate to a draw in the round.
Mahalakshmi had little problems in her game against Andria, however. In a Caro-Kann Defence, the latter had made some tactical errors early in the game to give her opponent a material advantage. After this, Andria tried hard to generate counter chances against the black king but her attempts were duly shut down by Mahalakshmi. Once the fireworks had burned out, Mahalakshmi had four extra pawns in a rook endgame.
On board 2, Vrushali Deodhar had also made some serious problems out of the opening against WGM Swati Ghate. With the black pieces, Swati had found an enterprising exchange sacrifice in the English Opening and was trying hard to find her way through the dense woods of variations. However, Vrushali defended tenaciously. The position was winning for Swati but the win was a difficult one to find. The path that Swati chose restored material equality and after a few careful moves, Vrushali managed to hold to a draw.
This wasn't, however, the only upset of the round. On board 7, Priyanka Kumari (2005) overcame a rating gap of more than 200 points to defeat Priyanka K (2207). Just one board below Meghna CH (1879) held the 2136 rated Nimmy A.G with the black pieces. On board 11, Nandhidhaa PV (2240) drew against Bristry Mukherjee while Srija Seshadri (2224) had to sign peace against Bommini Mounika Akshaya (1859).
The lead Mahalakshmi M had acquired in the fourth round turned out to be rather short-lived. In round 5, the tournament's then sole leader, Mahalakshmi M made a grave error in an equal position against Bhakti Kulkarni and went on to lose in about the next dozen moves.
The f2 square looks indefensible without the passive-looking 24.Rf1 here. However, white has the clever trick 24.f4 in the position. After 24...exf4 25. Qxd4 Bg7 26.Qxg7 Qxg7 27. Bxg7 Kxg7 28.exf4, white is fine. But Mahalakshmi panicked here and played 24.f3 that rendered her position damaged beyond repair.
Vantika Agrawal was unable to carve any advantage from the white side of a Slav Defence against 1793 rated Vrushali Deodhar. The game had begun like a Slav Defence but soon veered into the waters of a Gruenfeld. Neither side had any advantage to boast of at any point and the game came to a peaceful conclusion after 53 moves.
Going into round six, three players had made it atop the leaderboard -- Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman, Bhakti Kulkarni and Mary Ann Gomes. But once again, only one player managed to keep the tournament lead at the close of the round, and that was the Kolkata based WGM Mary Ann Gomes. In the sixth round, Mary defeated WGM Swati Ghate while the other two leaders, Kulkarni and Subbaraman drew among themselves.
In a Reti System, Gomes gobbled a pawn out of the opening and had managed to digest it. As the game went into the endgame, her extra pawn soon began to make its presence felt. In the double rook endgame that had ensued after an exchange of bishops on the 36th move, Gomes carefully converted her material edge into a full point.
The seventh round again saw the number of leaders tripled from one to three as Bhakti Kulkarni and Mahalakshmi M joined Mary Ann Gomes in tournament lead. The round also saw an incredible blunder on one of the top boards. Kiran Manisha Mohanty essentially gifted Mahalakshmi the full point by making a one-move piece blunder.
Nisha Mohota essayed the rare Schlechter variation of the French Defence with the white pieces against Bhakti Kulkarni to reach a balanced position out of the opening. But the boot was on the wrong foot when, with her pawn advance 17.f4, Nisha opened up the long diagonal for the black bishop and shed a pawn. Nisha struggled for a long time after this before going down due to a blunder on her 53rd turn.
Rank after round 7 (Top 10)
|2||2||WGM||Gomes Mary Ann||IND||2286||PSPB||6,0||0,0||29,0||31,0|
|6||13||WIM||Michelle Catherina P||IND||2182||TN||5,5||0,0||22,5||25,5|
|8||14||WGM||Kiran Manisha Mohanty||IND||2164||LIC||5,0||0,0||28,5||32,0|
Results of round 7
|1||1||IM||Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman||2365||5||½ - ½||5½||WGM||Gomes Mary Ann||2286||2|
|2||11||WIM||Mahalakshmi M||2198||5||1 - 0||5||WGM||Kiran Manisha Mohanty||2164||14|
|3||3||IM||Mohota Nisha||2276||4½||0 - 1||5||WGM||Kulkarni Bhakti||2256||4|
|4||5||WGM||Swati Ghate||2256||4½||1 - 0||4½||WFM||Saranya J||2049||22|
|5||27||WGM||Ramaswamy Aarthie||1994||4½||½ - ½||4½||Priyanka K||2207||10|
|6||13||WIM||Michelle Catherina P||2182||4½||1 - 0||4½||Saranya Y||1898||31|
|7||19||WFM||Arpita Mukherjee||2090||4½||½ - ½||4½||Harini S.||1998||26|
|8||34||WCM||Jain Nityata||1891||4||0 - 1||4||WIM||Nandhidhaa P V||2240||6|
|9||35||WFM||Meghna C H||1879||4||0 - 1||4||WIM||Chitlange Sakshi||2237||7|
|10||40||Singh Neha||1835||4||0 - 1||4||WGM||Meenakshi Subbaraman||2191||12|
Round 8 pairing
|1||2||WGM||Gomes Mary Ann||2286||6||6||WIM||Mahalakshmi M||2198||11|
|2||4||WGM||Kulkarni Bhakti||2256||6||5½||WGM||Swati Ghate||2256||5|
|3||13||WIM||Michelle Catherina P||2182||5½||5½||IM||Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman||2365||1|
|4||6||WIM||Nandhidhaa P V||2240||5||5||Nimmy A.G.||2136||16|
|5||7||WIM||Chitlange Sakshi||2237||5||5||Priyanka Kumari||2005||23|
|6||10||Priyanka K||2207||5||5||WFM||Arpita Mukherjee||2090||19|
|7||12||WGM||Meenakshi Subbaraman||2191||5||5||WGM||Ramaswamy Aarthie||1994||27|
|8||14||WGM||Kiran Manisha Mohanty||2164||5||5||WFM||Bommini Mounika Akshaya||1859||39|
|9||26||Harini S.||1998||5||4½||WIM||Chandreyee Hajra||1963||29|
|10||31||Saranya Y||1898||4½||4½||IM||Mohota Nisha||2276||3|