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How Padmini "Routed' the competition and became the Asian Champion 2018

by Aditya Pai - 28/12/2018

At the recently concluded Asian Continental Championship, the eighth seed of the tournament, IM Padmini Rout dominated the field from start to finish. In the end, she finished with an impressive 7.0/9, easily winning the Asian title. After the event, ChessBase India caught up with her to discuss some of her games, know about her training before the event and chat about her experience overall. With this interview we would like to give you a peek into the mind of Padmini, as to what she was thinking when she had some of the most critical positions on the board. It's been years we have been calling her the Princess of Indian chess, but with her list of growing achievements - four national titles and now Asian champion she is surely on path to becoming a queen! 

Year 2018 had not been very special for Padmini. She started with a rating of 2325 and on 1st December had an Elo of 2345. The Olympiad had been lacklustre, in the World Cup 2018 she had been knocked out in the first round. It's true that she had won three medals at the Asian Nations Cup (a gold, silver and a bronze), but by Padmini's standards the year wasn't going so well. For many it would mean passing through a rough patch. But for Padmini, it was safe to say that a big performance was around the corner. She was due for it. And she did not disappoint. The Asian Championship 2018 was held from 10th to the 18th of December in Makati, Philippines. Padmini started as the eighth seed and in a field which consisted of strong Chinese, Kazakh and Vietnam players she finished ahead of all of them and became the Asian Champion 2018.

Asian Champion 2018! - Padmini Rout | Photo: Peter Long

Padmini's strong performance at the Asian Championships 2018. A rout in the start with 5.5/6 and then level headed three draws took her to the finish line

Final Ranking after 9 Rounds

Rk.SNo NamesexFEDRtgIBdldPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4 Rpnwwew-weKrtg+/-
IMPADMINI RoutwIND23457,01,0231646,549,52522974,982,021020,2
WGMGONG QianyunwSGP23127,00,0226845,548,52476975,111,892037,8
IMPHAM Le Thao NguyenwVIE23636,50,0228946,049,5245196,55,451,051010,5
WIMZHU JinerwCHN24096,00,0232946,050,02443965,590,41208,2
WFMMUNKHZUL TurmunkhwMGL22555,50,0235346,551,0239395,53,751,754070,0
NING KaiyuwCHN22475,50,0224140,043,0230795,54,670,832016,6
WGMVO Thi Kim PhungwVIE23525,50,0224042,044,5231095,55,82-0,3210-3,2
WFMLI YunshanwCHN21965,50,0223841,041,0223395,54,251,254050,0
WGMWANG JuewCHN23675,50,0221443,547,0228795,56,33-0,8310-8,3
WGMAULIA Medina WardawINA23665,50,0221340,544,0230195,56,19-0,6910-6,9
WIMNANDHIDHAA P VwIND22675,50,0218835,039,0226095,55,440,06201,2
IMGUO QiwCHN23685,00,0224441,044,52291955,90-0,9010-9,0
LI XueyiwCHN21875,00,0224042,546,52269954,020,982019,6
ZHANG XiaowCHN20175,00,0215537,039,52198953,011,994079,6
WGMNGUYEN Thi Thanh AnwVIE22625,00,0214637,540,02185955,86-0,8620-17,2
WIMFRONDA Jan JodilynwPHI21395,00,0213735,035,02117954,620,38207,6
WIMCITRA Dewi Ardhiani AnastasiawINA22155,00,0211337,540,52160955,55-0,5520-11,0
WGMFRAYNA Janelle MaewPHI22285,00,0206535,037,52128956,05-1,0520-21,0
WFMDOROY Allaney Jia GwPHI19724,50,0222438,041,5221094,51,962,5440101,6
WIMGU TianluwCHN22314,50,0222139,042,5220694,54,74-0,2420-4,8

You won the Asian Continentals in a very dominating manner. What are your thoughts on winning your maiden Asian women’s championship title.

I am happy. It went very smoothly. I wanted to win the title as only the champion qualifies for the world cup but as the tournament started I just played without any other thoughts, only in the last few rounds I thought of the title again. The title has boosted my hope.  The tournament finished quickly I feel.


Who would you credit your success to?

Myself! [laughs]


Had you made any special preparations for this event?

I had a one-week training camp with Arghyadip Das.

A week's training camp with Arghyadip Das helped Padmini prepare well for the event | Photo: Amruta Mokal

You were absolutely unstoppable in the first six rounds but then treaded slowly in the last three scoring short draws. Was it only because of the tournament situation?

In the seventh game, it was more because of preparation. I was surprised, even though my opponent did play the Petroff at times. In the eighth game, I assessed that the position was going to turn into equality anyway. In part, it was also probably because of the tournament situation. If I had the same position in the first half of the tournament, I would have played on. In the ninth round, it was absolutely because of the tournament situation; it ensured me the title.


Which was your favourite game from the tournament and why?

I am happy with the calculation of my fourth round game especially in the following position where I found this nice looking long castle which would solve all my problems doesn’t work.

Vo Thi Kim Phung vs Padmini Rout

In the above position Padmini played the move ...Nc5. Why didn't she go for 0-0-0 here? Can you find out?

In round one, you had this position with White (diagram below). Were you feeling tensed as the opponent had a comfortable position with some attacking chances?


Padmini Rout vs Bernadette Galas, Round 1

Position after 24...f4

I was a little bit unhappy that earlier I had messed up a promising position and got into this. But here I did not feel any tension in particular because I had made peace with the fact that I was worse and was just playing the position, trying to bring my pieces out!

Were you fine with a quick draw in round 3 against Zhu Jiner, or did you feel upset? Why did you decide to take a draw?

Round three wasn’t a quick draw in any sense. It was a fully played game which ended in perpetual. I think there were some transmission issues and the game did not come fully online. I played the opening badly, then there were interesting moments in the middle game where my opponent could have been better if she hadn’t grabbed the pawn on b2. After this, I got chances. At one point, I exchanged rooks on f7 and played f4 when I could directly play f4 and create chances for myself. I thought there might be some tactics but it just equalized with precise play.

Padmini Rout vs Zhu Jiner, Round 3

...c6 was a natural move by Black. Here Padmini took on f7. But instead she could have played f4 straight away sacrificing the rook on b7. The point is that after ...Rxb7 fxe5 White has a lot of firepower working against the black king.

In round 4, you played a very nice game against Vo Thi Kim Phung. Were you surprised that you got such a strong attack even when the queens were off the board? What are your thoughts about the game?

Vo Thi Kim Phung vs Padmini Rout

Position after 23...g4. The bishop on b7 along with the pawns and rooks launch a decisive attack on White's king! Not to forget the stead on c4

I wasn’t surprised at all because I had the double bishops in an open centre position where the bishops would dominate the knights, the light square bishop directly looking at a pawn before the king, opposite side castle, queenside pawn majority, better pieces.

In round 5 you managed to beat Turmukh Munkhzul. During the game, what had you planned for Nxe4?

Padmini Rout vs Munkhzul Turmunkh

Position after 35. Ne3. Instead of taking on e4 here, Munkhzul played Rb8 which turned out to be too passive.

My plan was to play Re2, I felt my pieces were better placed and I could take this risk. I had made this decision with seconds on the clock.

In round six, you played Gong Qianyun. Were you surprised that she opened the game with 1.f4?



What was your assessment of the position when you saw that you could win a piece with …f6? Do you think you are better, or the position is still complex?


Gong Qianyun vs Padmini Rout

Position after 24...f6

When my opponent played Ng4, I think she saw that she could give a piece. I saw I could win a piece when I played b5. I thought that after winning a piece, the position would be winning for me.

We saw you play the English Defence a couple of times with black (...e6 and ...b6) against 1.d4 this time. Is this a new sword in your opening arsenal?

I didn’t know it’s called the English Defence. I played the Grunfeld too. It was just a one-game inspiration which turned into two.

You were the top seed in the blitz event but finished 10th. What went wrong?

That baffles me and blitz is supposed to be my forte! I won against the champion though!

Minutes after Padmini became the Asian Champion, she had to play the Asian Blitz. She was the top seed and finished 10th

Final rankings in blitz

Rk.SNoNameGrFEDRtgRtgNBdldClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 nwwe
13WGMWANG JueCHN236207,50,0213044,597,56,71
24WGMHOANG Thi Bao TramVIE234207,00,0214647,5976,39
32IMPHAM Le Thao NguyenVIE236806,50,0214344,096,56,71
413WGMFRAYNA Janelle MaePHI211306,00,0221142,5963,64
525ZHANG XiaoCHN191006,00,0219539,0962,00
611WIMSECOPITO CatherinePHI212006,00,0218647,0963,93
77WGMGONG QianyunSGP226006,00,0206845,0966,15
85WGMVO Thi Kim PhungVIE232006,00,0206839,5966,85
926WIMGALAS BernadettePHI185505,50,0225345,095,51,11
101IMPADMINI RoutIND240305,00,0213045,5957,05


During the event, there had been some talks regarding the quality and pricing of the accommodation provided to the players. How was your experience at the hotel?

Yes, later the organizers tried their best to improve the situation so we returned with a positive experience of Makati.

Why didn’t you play the women’s national premier this year?

At the time of Women’s premier, I really needed a break owing to the upcoming schedule. I play four tournaments in December and January!

How was your visit to the Great Wall of China?

It was really nice! I enjoyed it.

Padmini with her friends Surya Sekhar Ganguly and Sethuraman at the Great Wall of China

Padmini joins the illustrious list of Indian players who have won the Asian Championship in the past:

1. Bhakti Kulkarni 2016

2. Harika 2011

3. Tania Sachdev 2007

4. Humpy 2003

5. Bhagyashree Thipsay 1991

6. Anupama Gokhale 1985,87

7. Rohini Khadilkar 1981,83

Get to know Padmini better: 

Get to know Padmini better through this interview after she won National Championship 2017