CHENNAI: Padmini Rout’s Caruanaesque winning streak (seven straight wins) propelled her to back-to-back title triumphs in the national women’s premier chess championship in Kolkata. The 21-year-old won the most number of games (8) and outdistanced her rivals by one-point. She secured 8.5 points in 11 rounds for an impressive (+6 score) and took home the winner’s prize of `1,75,000.
There was a three-way tie for second spot between Soumya Swaminathan, Bhakti Kulkarni and Swati Ghate (all 7.5), with Soumya finishing second, thanks to a better tie-break record, followed by Bhakti and Swati on third and fourth spots.
Padmini made a modest start (1.5/3), going down to Pratuysha Bodda in the third round. However, the top seed hit a purple patch winning game after game to make it a memorable event. Her first big test came against former champion Soumya in the eighth round. Playing aggressively, Padmini outwitted her opponent with the black pieces, conjuring up a mating net. The Odisha-based Padmini prevailed in the battle of leaders against Swati in the next round to take a one-point lead. Victory against two-time champion Tania Sachdev in the penultimate round meant she had retained the crown with a round to spare!
Padmini’s game has taken a big leap in the last 12 months. She has gone from strength to strength from the time she won her maiden national crown last year in Sangli. Her improvement is vindicated by the fact that she is now the third highest-ranked Indian player after Koneru Humpy and Dronavalli Harika. Padmini also took the first step towards becoming a GM, making her first norm in the Gibraltar Masters this year. “Padmini is dedicated, hard-working and level-headed. She is an all-round player and can play well in most of the positions,” reflected former national champion Aarthie Ramaswamy when queried about Padmini’s strong points as a player.
Soumya got off to a dream start (5/6) but two straight losses in the seventh and eighth rounds ended her title aspirations. However, she recovered in time, posting a crucial victory over Swati in the last round to finish on a high. Bhakti bettered her last year’s showing (4th) with a hat-trick of victories in the last three rounds. The Goan No 1 gained 29.4 rating points for her outstanding effort.
Final Placings: 1. Padmini Rout 8.5, 2-4: Soumya Swaminathan, Bhakti Kulkarni, Swati Ghate 7.5, 5-6: Pratyusha Bodda, R Vaishali 6.5, 7. Tania Sachdev 5, 8-9: Michelle Catherina, Priyanka Nuttaki 4.5, 10. K Priyanka 3, 11. Neha Singh 1.