S. Vijayalaksmi, India’s first woman Grandmaster, was playing at the international tournament for women

S. Vijayalakshmi may not be playing in as many tournaments she once used to, but her much-admired fighting qualities are still intact, as displayed on Thursday, when she tied for the title at the International Woman Grandmaster (WGM) tournament.

India’s first ever WGM was placed third when the tie-breakers were applied. “Yes, I am pretty pleased with my effort, though it could have been better if I hadn’t lost two successive games,” says Viji, as she is better known in chess circles.

She adds she is delighted her city could host an international tournament solely for women, the first of its kind in the entire country.

'“It was fantastic that we women could have a tournament of our own, finally,” she says. “It would be great if the organisers in Chennai could make this an annual affair.”

Viji says it is gratifying to note that many more girls are playing chess in the city. “When I played my first ever tournament at the Tal Chess Club, in 1985, I was the only girl,” she says. “Now you can see a huge number of young girls taking part in tournaments.”

She feels chess could become even bigger in the city after the world championship that is being held at Hyatt Regency. “So many people are following that matches, be it on TV or the internet,” she says. “Now, I am asked very technical questions such as why Anand didn’t make that move at that particular stage.”

She is planning to watch the match from the venue soon. “So far I have been following it online, as I have been busy playing the WGM tournament,” she says. “And now I am also playing in the Open Grandmaster tournament that opened on Friday.”

Though Viji, who has won two medals for India at the Chess Olympiad, has not been playing in the national championship since 2006, she is thinking of making a comeback. “I stayed away because I felt I wasn’t gaining anything by playing in those championships,” she says, adding, “I have been playing a lot of tournaments abroad though.”

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