CHENNAI:Defending champion Padmini Rout will be looking to win back-to-back titles, when the 42nd Ramratna national premier women’s chess championship starts in Kolkata on Friday. The 12-player, 11-round round-robin event has the right mix of experience and youth to produce exciting games and lively contests.
Padmini’s game has improved by leaps and bounds in the last one year. After winning the individual gold on the fifth board at the 2014 Chess Olympiad, the 21-year-old has become stronger with every outing. She won her maiden national crown last year convincingly in Sangli. She followed it up by making a GM norm in the Gibraltar Masters, one of the strongest Opens in January. Her good run continued, when she jointly tied for first spot in the Malaysian Open. The one tournament she did not perform well was the World Women’s Team C’ship in Chengdu, which had the world’s best players taking part.
Padmini’s form and results make her the favourite even though the top seed will face strong challenge from former champions Tania Sachdev and Soumya Swaminathan. “I just want to play good games. I hope to do better than last year. That will be my aim,” said Padmini.
Two-time national champion Tania became well known in the chess world, when she commentated during the 2013 World Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen in Chennai. The 29-year-old also donned the role of a commentator in the Millionaire Open in Las Vegas recently. Tania’s focus now will be to get her act together on the board. The second seed has the experience and game to contend for the top spot. Good start and avoiding reverses will be the key to her chances.
After missing out on last year’s nationals, Soumya qualified for the big tournament by coming third in the Challengers. The 26-year-old will be aiming for her second title after winning the first one in 2011. Being a former world junior champion (2009), Soumya has the ability to lift her game in strong tournaments. She was the third best performer for India behind Koneru Humpy and Dronavalli Harika in the World Women’s Team C’ship. If she stays consistent, Soumya’s chances of going all the way is a realistic possibility. “My aim is to win the tournament. Looking forward to a well-organised event and playing some good games,’’ reflected Soumya.
R Vaishali can be termed as dark horse. The 14-year-old has been having a dream run, winning tournament after tournament. The Chennaiite is coming to the event on a high following her triumphant run in the World U-14 girls. Vaishali has already shown she can compete against senior players, winning the 2015 Challengers. However, it remains to be seen how she fares in a closed event with very few weak players. “She has been playing well this year, winning national juniors, national challengers, World Youth Olympiad and World U-14. Vaishali is in good form but could be getting tired with continuous tournaments. I just hope she plays good quality chess and accept whatever comes along the way,” was how coach RB Ramesh summed up Vaishali’s prospects.
(rating in brackets)
Padmini Rout (2437), Tania Sachdev (2385), Soumya Swaminathan (2357), R Vaishali (2298), Bhakti Kulkarni (2257), Pratyusha Bodda (2248), Michelle Catherina (2242), Swati Ghate (2230), V Varshini (2163), Neha Singh (2024), Priyanka K (2011), Priyanka Nutakki (1994).