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National Women's Championship: Mary defeats Bhakti to take over the tournament lead

by Aditya Pai - 24/11/2018

Leaders changed once again in the ninth round of the Women's National Championship. At the conclusion of the antepenultimate round, Air India's Bhakti Kulkarni was toppled off her top spot by Mary Ann Gomes of PSPB in the premier matchup of the round. Mahalakshmi M was another player to join into the tournament lead as she defeated Michelle Catherina. After her loss, Bhakti has slipped down to the third spot behind Gomes and Mahalakshmi while Michelle shares the fourth place with six others. Round 9 report.

Leaders change once again

Change is the only permanent they say. At the close of another round, another leader was toppled at the Women's National Championship in Jaipur, Rajasthan. On the premier board in the ninth round, Mary Ann Gomes (2286) of PSPB took down the overnight leader Bhakti Kulkarni to take over the tournament lead. Mahalakshmi M (2198), who was also a half point behind Kulkarni going into the round, seized the moment to join Gomes on the top spot as she beat WIM Michelle Catherina P (2182) of Tamil Nadu. Both Gomes and Mahalakshmi have scored 7.5 points out of their nine games.


After her loss, Bhakti has slipped down to the second spot with a score of 7.0/9. There is a seven-way tie for the third place that includes Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman (2365), Priyanka Kumari (2005), Michelle Catherina P, Arpita Mukherjee (2090), Saranya J (2049), Nandhidhaa PV (2240) and Meenakshi Subbaraman (2191).


In the top game of the round, Mary was on the front foot against Bhakti Kulkarni in a Reti Opening. However, Kulkarni wasn't really worse. She had managed to keep balanced well until the 28th move.

Position after 28.Rxa4

White had just captured a pawn on a4 here. Computers thought black was best advised to cover c6 with 28...Rf6 and then she was free to take on c5 at will. Bhakti, however, chose to capture immediately. And after 28...Qxc5 29.Rc4 Qa5 30.Rxc6, a catastrophe occurred -- Bhakti took on f5 with the bishop.

Position after 31.Re6

After 30...Bxf5, white exploited the pin on the f5 bishop with 31.Re6! The threat is simple -- put the rook on e5 and collect the f5 bishop. Bhakti tried to defend with 31...Rb5 only to realise that white can play 32.Re5 anyway. If black takes on e5 with 32...Rxe5, the f5 bishop is pinned in another way after 33.fxe5. Bhakti went 33...Bxe4 here but the game did not last long after 34.Rxb5.

Mary Ann Gomes (right) and Bhakti Kulkarni during the fourth round of the 2017 Women's National Premier. Even back then, they had discussed the Reti where Mary had the whites. However, Bhakti was the victor in that encounter. | Photo: Ankit Dalal

On board  2, Mahalakshmi M got the better of Michelle Catherina, who shared the second place with the former, going into round 9. This was another Reti Opening where white had a decent pull on the position in the middle game. But the deciding moment came on the 27th move when Michelle let a lot of material slip away with her 27...Bd6.

Position after 27...Bd6

White simply took on c4 here with 28.Bxc4. Of course, black cannot recapture on c4 with the rook and if she had recaptured with the pawn (28...dxc4), white had 29.d5, exploiting the pin along the 'e' file. Michelle decided to take 28...Bxf4 instead, but once again, after 29.Bxd5 Rd6 30.Bxe6, black had lost material.

Mahalakshmi M joined Mary Ann Gomes in the top spot after her win over Michelle Catherina in round 9

Bommini Mounika Akshaya (1859) had had a phenomenal run in the tournament until the 8th round. She had played six players rated more than 200 points above her and had managed to remain unbeaten. In round 9, however, her unbeaten run was brought to a halt by Nandhidaa PV (2240) who convincingly defeated the Gunthur girl from the black side of a London System.

Nandhidhaa PV scored a smooth win over Bommini Mounika Akshaya in round 9 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

With the lead changing hands every now and then, the tournament has been quite exciting thus far. As it stands, the tournament is wide open and it's hard to predict any favourites. It will be interesting to see how the final two rounds unfold.


Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
12WGMGomes Mary AnnIND2286PSPB7,50,549,052,5
211WIMMahalakshmi MIND2198RSPB7,50,546,551,0
34WGMKulkarni BhaktiIND2256AI7,00,050,054,0
41IMVijayalakshmi SubbaramanIND2365AI6,50,049,554,0
523Priyanka KumariIND2005JHA6,50,049,053,0
613WIMMichelle Catherina PIND2182TN6,50,045,549,5
719WFMArpita MukherjeeIND2090WB6,50,043,548,0
822WFMSaranya JIND2049TN6,50,043,547,0
96WIMNandhidhaa P VIND2240TN6,50,043,046,5
1012WGMMeenakshi SubbaramanIND2191AI6,50,042,547,0

Results of round 9

12WGMGomes Mary Ann22861 - 07WGMKulkarni Bhakti22564
211WIMMahalakshmi M21981 - 0WIMMichelle Catherina P218213
319WFMArpita Mukherjee20906½ - ½6Priyanka Kumari200523
439WFMBommini Mounika Akshaya185960 - 1WIMNandhidhaa P V22406
51IMVijayalakshmi Subbaraman23651 - 0Harini S.199826
65WGMSwati Ghate22560 - 1WGMMeenakshi Subbaraman219112
716Nimmy A.G.2136½ - ½WIMSrija Seshadri22248
827WGMRamaswamy Aarthie19940 - 1WFMSaranya J204922
93IMMohota Nisha227651 - 05Ghosh Samriddhaa187036
1029WIMChandreyee Hajra196350 - 15WIMChitlange Sakshi22377

Round 10 pairings

112WGMMeenakshi Subbaraman2191WGMGomes Mary Ann22862
222WFMSaranya J2049WIMMahalakshmi M219811
34WGMKulkarni Bhakti22567WIMMichelle Catherina P218213
423Priyanka Kumari2005IMVijayalakshmi Subbaraman23651
56WIMNandhidhaa P V2240WFMArpita Mukherjee209019
616Nimmy A.G.213666IMMohota Nisha22763
77WIMChitlange Sakshi223766WFMBommini Mounika Akshaya185939
88WIMSrija Seshadri222466WCMIsha Sharma215115
931Saranya Y1898WGMSwati Ghate22565
1038Smaraki Mohanty1867WIMVantika Agrawal22109



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