In a much-awaited clash, defending champion Padmini Rout produced a strong finish to crush S. Vijayalakshmi’s title-hopes in the National women’s chess championship here on Friday.
Padmini, looking for her third straight title, cleared a major hurdle following the 49-move victory over the six-time champion.
In this Ruy Lopez game, where Padmini played white, Vijayalakshmi couldn’t stop her rival from establishing a pawn on the seventh rank of the king-rook file.
Thereafter, after taking care of the knight-pawn weakness on the queenside, Padmini punished Vijayalakshmi with a savage attack.
Down a rook and facing an inevitable checkmate, Vijayalakshmi resigned on the 49th move.
Three defeats in the last four games have put Vijayalakshmi out of the contention for a seventh title. At the start of the event, given Vijayalakshmi’s encouraging form this year and her vast experience, the 37-year-old second seed was a serious contender. But none had expected the veteran to implode, the way she did this week.
“Vijayalakshmi is a legend and rarely loses a game,” was how Padmini reflected on the importance of his victory. “She is known to be a fierce competitor and never gives up. So this triumph is very special.”
On a day when all six boards produced outright verdicts, Padmini’s tally stood at 6.5 points as she stayed a point ahead of Soumya Swaminathan and top seed Eesha Karavade. Vijayalakshmi has slipped to the fourth spot with 4.5 points.
By sheer coincidence, all four Indian Oil players — Padmini, Soumya, Eesha and Mary Ann Gomes — won against their Chennai-based rivals — Vijayalakshmi, R. Vaishali, M. Mahalakshmi and P. Bala Kannamma.
Soumya gained from a simple miscalculation from Vaishali and gained a bishop. This brought a sudden end to the game that promised an exciting finish.
Eesha won when Mahalakshmi resigned after finding no way to stop her rival from having an extra queen on the board.
Swati Ghate improved the prospects of a strong finish by winning her third game in four rounds.
The former champion established an advanced centre-pawn and prevailed in an endgame involving rooks and pawns.
For Mary, it was her first victory after six draws and a defeat. After the 72-move triumph over Kannamma, the three-time champion said, “I was determined to be more patient today. And I am glad my approach paid off. Now I wish to make the most of the remaining three rounds.”
The results: Eighth round: Mary Ann Gomes (4) bt P. Bala Kannamma (3.5) in 72 moves; Padmini Rout (6.5) bt S. Vijayalakshmi (4.5) in 49 moves; Eesha Karavade (5.5) bt M. Mahalakshmi (4) in 52 moves; Pratyusha Bodda (2.5) bt Nisha Mohota (3) in 82 moves; R. Vaishali (2.5) lost to Soumya Swaminathan (5.5) in 35 moves; Kiran Manisha Mohanty (3) lost to Swati Ghate (3.5) in 54 moves.
Ninth round pairings: Swati-Mary; Soumya-Kiran; Nisha-Vaishali; Mahalakshmi-Pratyusha; Vijayalakshmi-Eesha; Bala-Padmini.