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Humpy wins in style

By P. K. Ajith Kumar

Koneru Humpy, who won the National women's `A' chess championship in Kozhikode on Wednesday, being congratulated by her mother Latha as father Koneru Ashok looks on. — Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

KOZHIKODE NOV. 19. Sixteen-year-old Koneru Humpy won the Oilum 30th National women's `A' chess championship in great style at the Chess India Complex on Wednesday. Not only she did it with a round to spare, but she did it with an astonishing 15.5 points from 16 rounds.

Her dream run got another extension when she defeated the young and talented Kruttika Nadiga from Pune in the penultimate round. This has been an amazing streak. "I never expected to win the tournament like this," a delighted Humpy said. "I am so happy that I could play so well for so many days, and that too without any preparation.''

S. Vijayalakshmi, who has won this tournament more times than anybody else, was one of the first to congratulate Humpy, who has recently been appointed as the brand ambassador of Bank of Baroda, on her triumph. She is the undisputed runner-up, having taken her impressive tally to 14 points, following her victory against debutant Saheli Nath.

Humpy and Viji are most likely to be joined by Dronavalli Harika and Nisha Mohota in the Indian team for the Olympiad. Harika, who drew with Y. Prathiba, and Nisha, who defeated Viji's younger sister S. Meenakshi in what was billed as a play-off for the last spot in the Olympiad team, have 10.5 points each. Their places can only be confirmed after the final round.

On Thursday Nisha takes on Koneru Chandra Hawsa, Harika meets Eesha Karvade (9.5 points) and Kruttika takes on Meenakshi (9.5). Viji and Humpy would also come face to face, but that game would have no bearing on the final rank list.

The penultimate day also saw defending champion Aarthie Ramaswamy suffering another defeat, this time at the hands of fellow-Chennaite, C.V. Rajalakshmi, who thus has taken her score to 2.5 points. This certainly has been a tournament to forget for the hugely talented Aarthie.

Humpy faced the Grunfeld Defence from Kruttika, and the opening went more or less according to her home preparation. She made her intentions clear right from the beginning: she wouldn't settle for anything less than a victory, but her rival from Pune, who remains the only player to make any kind of norm in the tournament, didn't give her too many chances to begin with.

Humpy castled on the queen-side, against Black's short castle, and began to take control of the centre, and soon had Kruttika on the backfoot. By the 19th move, Black had taken most of her pieces back to where they were at the beginning of the game. After exchanging a king-side pawn on the 20th move, Humpy went on the offensive on that flank with her queen, rook and bishop. Kruttika resigned when Humpy sacrificed an exchange; the mate was not too far away.

In a Queen's Gmabit Declined game, Nisha, with black pieces, played cautiously and carved out one of the most important wins in her career. It was Meenakshi who showed more urgency, and was willing to take risks for a win whereas her rival's motto was safety first. The game reached an equal rook and minor piece ending by the 22nd move, following the exchange of the queens and one rook each. Nisha won a crucial queen-side pawn on the 24th move, but she took her own sweet time to consolidate her advantage. On the 44th move, the remaining rooks were exchanged and Nisha ensured her invaluable victory in the knight-and-pawn ending. Meenakshi resigned after 68 moves.

Harika employed the Sicilian Defence against Prathiba and got what she wanted after just 20 moves: a draw. It was a fairly equal position, but Harika probably would've played on under normal circumstances.

The results (16th round): Tania Sachdev (Del) 8.5 bt Swati Ghate (Mah) 7; Saheli Nath (Ben) 6 lost to S. Vijayalakshmi (IA) 14; Koneru Humpy (AP) 15.5 bt Kruttika Nadig (Mah) 7.5; S. Meenakshi (TN) 9.5 lost to Nisha Mohota (LIC) 10.5; Koneru Chandra Hawsa (AP) 5.5 lost to M.R. Sangeetha (TN) 3.5; C.V. Rajalakshmi (TN) 2.5 bt Aarthie Ramaswamy (TN) 7.5; Y. Prathiba 6.5 drew with D. Harika 10.5; Eesha Karvade (Mah) 9.5 drew with Anupama Gokhale (Mah) 7.5; Saimeera Ravi (IB) 5.5 lost to Bhagyashree Thipsay (IDB) 7.

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