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National Women's Championship: Bhakti, Mary and Mahalakshmi share tournament lead

by Aditya Pai - 22/11/2018

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.

Numbers reversed

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.

Round 4

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.

Mahalakshmi M won comfortably from the black side of a Caro-Kann to take sole lead after round 4 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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.

WGM Swati Ghate played enterprisingly but did not manage to break through the defences of her opponent | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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).

Round 5

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.

Position after 23...Qf7

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.

Bhakti Kulkarni toppled M Mahalakshmi in round 5 to take joint lead in the tournament | Photo:

Vrushali Deodhar impressed once again in round 5 by holding WIM Vantika Agrawal to a draw | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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.

Meanwhile, in the bigger upset of the day, WCM Isha Sharma (2151) was crushed by Saranya Y (1898) in a Hyper-accelerated Sicilian Dragon | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Round 6

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.

Mary Ann Gomes defeated Swati Ghate in round 6 to take sole lead | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Meanwhile, on the top board, the tournament's top seed, IM Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman agreed to a quick 16 move draw against Bhakti Kulkarni 

Round 6 also saw S Harini score an upset by beating Vantika Agrawal on board 9 with the white pieces

Round 7

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.

26...Nf5 here would have remained approximately equal. However, Black went pawn grabbing with 26...Nxb3 only to realise that the horsie was caught in a mouse trap after 27.Qe3.

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.

With her seventh round win, Bhakti Kulkarni is now back among the leaders | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Mary Ann Gomes defended a pawn down rook endgame until the 88th move to escape a loss against IM Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman

Rank after round 7 (Top 10)

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
14WGMKulkarni BhaktiIND2256AI6,00,030,034,0
22WGMGomes Mary AnnIND2286PSPB6,00,029,031,0
311WIMMahalakshmi MIND2198RSPB6,00,027,030,0
41IMVijayalakshmi SubbaramanIND2365AI5,50,029,032,5
55WGMSwati GhateIND2256LIC5,50,027,531,0
613WIMMichelle Catherina PIND2182TN5,50,022,525,5
723Priyanka KumariIND2005JHA5,00,030,534,0
814WGMKiran Manisha MohantyIND2164LIC5,00,028,532,0
926Harini S.IND1998TN5,00,028,031,0
1010Priyanka KIND2207TN5,00,027,530,5

Results of round 7

11IMVijayalakshmi Subbaraman23655½ - ½WGMGomes Mary Ann22862
211WIMMahalakshmi M219851 - 05WGMKiran Manisha Mohanty216414
33IMMohota Nisha22760 - 15WGMKulkarni Bhakti22564
45WGMSwati Ghate22561 - 0WFMSaranya J204922
527WGMRamaswamy Aarthie1994½ - ½Priyanka K220710
613WIMMichelle Catherina P21821 - 0Saranya Y189831
719WFMArpita Mukherjee2090½ - ½Harini S.199826
834WCMJain Nityata189140 - 14WIMNandhidhaa P V22406
935WFMMeghna C H187940 - 14WIMChitlange Sakshi22377
1040Singh Neha183540 - 14WGMMeenakshi Subbaraman219112

Round 8 pairing

12WGMGomes Mary Ann228666WIMMahalakshmi M219811
24WGMKulkarni Bhakti22566WGMSwati Ghate22565
313WIMMichelle Catherina P2182IMVijayalakshmi Subbaraman23651
46WIMNandhidhaa P V224055Nimmy A.G.213616
57WIMChitlange Sakshi223755Priyanka Kumari200523
610Priyanka K220755WFMArpita Mukherjee209019
712WGMMeenakshi Subbaraman219155WGMRamaswamy Aarthie199427
814WGMKiran Manisha Mohanty216455WFMBommini Mounika Akshaya185939
926Harini S.19985WIMChandreyee Hajra196329
1031Saranya Y1898IMMohota Nisha22763


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