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Thursday, September 13, 2001

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Li Ruofan, it is

By Arvind Aaron

CHENNAI, SEPT. 12. International Woman Master Li Ruofan of China scored an easy final round victory over Swati Ghate to take the 9th India Cements Asian Women's Chess championship title here at Hotel Taj Connemara on Wednesday.

Four Indians-WGM Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman, IWM Nisha Mohota, IWM Aarthie Ramaswamy and IWM Swati Ghate, qualified completing India's dominance of the tournament which sends seven players to the World Women's chess championship to be held from November 24 in Moscow. The other three places went to China. None of the former Soviet Republic players made it.

Reacting to the splendid performance by our players, the AICF secretary, Mr. P.T.Ummer Koya, said, ``Now we will never look back.''

Li Ruofan who won the Asian Junior at Jaipur in 1997, thus became the second Chinese to win this one. She scored nine points from 11 games and received a cash prize of $2,000 and a gold medal. She won eight games, drew two and lost one. This 23- year-old continental champion is a University student doing Economics. Zhang Weida and Yu Shaoteng are the two coaches who accompanied Li Ruofan here.

``India has been a lucky venue for me,'' Li Ruofan told The Hindu after the victory.

The chief arbiter, IM Manuel Aaron, announced that Li would get a WGM norm from Chennai. Mr. Ummer Koya said he would lobby with FIDE to get a WGM title for the winner of this event in the future.

Top seed IM Vijayalakshmi, 22, finished a comfortable second with eight points for the silver medal. She won $1750. For this Indian Airlines star, qualifying was important since she failed to win the zonal at Colombo in May this year.

For IWM Nisha Mohota of LIC, Kolkata everything was a surprise including her qualification. Chennai has been a lucky hunting ground for this girl for she qualified despite playing badly and losing the final game.

``My father asked me to go for the silver or bronze medals, he did not speak anything about qualifying,'' said the 21-year-old who made $658.33 for the tied third to eighth places. By higher progressive score Nisha was awarded the bronze medal.

The three medal winners were presented the prizes later in the evening by Mr. N. Srinivasan, vice chairman and managing director, India Cements Ltd. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Ummer Koya said this had been the best organised Asian Women's championship.

The 10-day event was staged by Sports Promotion Foundation under the auspices of the TNCA, AICF and FIDE. Cash prizes totalling Rs. 3.72 lakhs were given away.

Most of the games on the final day saw the players putting up spirited displays. Within the first hour, Bhagyashree Thipsay and Saheli Barua drew between them while Meenakshi blasted Asian Junior girls champion Kasturi quickly with the white pieces.

Li Ruofan was in a fighting mood having secured a qualifying berth and did not prefer a draw that Swati was waiting to take. In a Ruy Lopez, Arkhangelsk variation opening, the Indian made a serious mistake on move-13 which allowed white to gain an upperhand around black's castled king. Swati resigned on move-26.

``All went wrong, I have no explanation, I just played badly,'' Swati said after the game.

Vijayalakshmi who had title chances in case Li Ruofan drew or lost, was disappointed the way Swati Ghate had been wiped out. The three results did not affect her second placing. She was playing only for rating. Fighting a four knights game with the black pieces, Vijayalakshmi allowed a pawn shatter by Levushkina of Uzbekistan. Thereafter, she lost a pawn on move-30. The Uzbek had problems converting this initiative. Vijayalakshmi sacrificed her bishop for white's passed pawn and played resourcefully to draw the game after 68 moves.

Strangely, all the front runners for the qualifying berths (on seven points) lost. They however qualified as they had good progressive scores. One of them was Wang Yu of China who sacrificed a rook for knight in defence and did not have compensation. Nguyen Thi Thanh An of Vietnam won in 46 moves with the black pieces to tie for the third place.

Nisha Mohota had the liberty of playing a relaxed game since she had already qualified. She played the white pieces and faced a Dutch defence from WGM Zhao Xue. Her eagerness to swap knights on both occasions cost Nisha the advantage and later the equality which she had. In a rook and four pawns ending, the Chinese won using a passed queen bishop pawn.

Huang Qian takes fourth place

The untitled Chinese, Huang Qian pawn stormed Sergeeva Maria's king side with a nippy attack in 30 moves with the white pieces from a king's Indian defence. Beating the fourth seed Kazakh, Huang Qian took the fourth place to advance to Moscow.

Aarthie Ramaswamy ended her stint of defeats with a sacrificial 30-move victory with the white pieces over IWM Iroda Khamrakulova. Peeling black's defence with a rook for knight sacrifice on move-19, Aarthie set her sights firmly on winning. Black, who played the Sicilian dragon opening, made a serious mistake on move-22 by capturing an irrelevant pawn. Aarthie who went for the Yugoslav attack, queued her queen and rook on the king rook file to win with a mating attack.

WGM Mekhri Geldeyeva of Turkmenistan who did not have a good tournament, stopped Yu Ting of China from earning a 11- game norm by defeating her with the white pieces in 31 moves with a big king side offensive. However, Yu Ting obtained a 10-game norm.

Harika impresses

Besides the four who qualified, the most impressive Indian here was the 11-year-old Dronavalli Harika of Guntur. Scoring a positional 50-move victory with the black pieces over Afroza Khanam, Harika finished with 5.5 points from 11 games. ``I am satisfied with her play,'' said Mr. M. Raju, her coach of two years. Her next tournament will be the World Under- 12 Girls championship at Oropesa del Mar in Spain. She won a silver medal in the under-10 section at the World's last year.

None of the Indians earned any norms from the tournament. Wang Yu and Huang Qian of China get 11-game IWM norms while Yu Ting of China gets a 10-game IWM norm.

The final placing (top seven qualified): 1. IWM Li Ruofan (Chn) 9/11 (Rs. 93,000); 2. WGM S. Vijayalakshmi (Ind) 8 (Rs. 81,375); 3-8. IWM Nisha Mohota (Ind), Huang Qian (Chn), Wang Yu (Chn), Aarthie Ramaswamy (Ind), Swati Ghate (Ind), Nguyen Thi Thanh An (Vie) 6.5 each (Rs. 30,612.50 each); 9-10. Elena Luvushkina (Uzb), WGM Zhao Xue (Chn) 6.5 each (Rs. 6,975 each).

The results (11th round): Li Ruofan (Chn) 9 bt Swati Ghate (Ind) 7, Elena Levushkina (Uzb) 6.5 drew with S. Vijayalakshmi (Ind) 8, Wang Yu (Chn) 7 lost to Nguyen Thi Thanh An (Vie) 7, Nisha Mohota (Ind) 7 lost to Zhao Xue (Chn) 6.5, Huang Qian (Chn) 7 bt Sergeeva Maria (Kaz) 6, Aarthie Ramaswamy (Ind) 7 bt Iroda Khamrakulova (Uzb) 6, Mekhri Geldeyeva (Trk) 6 bt Yu Ting (Chn) 5, S. Meenakshi (Ind) 6 bt M. Kasturi (Ind) 5, Le Kieu Thien Kim (Vie) 5 lost to Anupama Gokhale (Ind) 5.5, Bhagyashree Thipsay (Ind) 5 drew with Saheli Barua (Ind) 4.5, Anjela Khegay (Uzb) 5.5 bt Vineetha Wijesuriya (Sri) 4, Afroza Khanam Bably (Ban) 4 lost to Dronavalli Harika (Ind) 5.5, Gu Xiaobing (Chn) 4.5 bt Rani Hamid (Ban) 4.5, Anupama Konara (Sri) 3 lost to Zhang Jilin (Chn) 5.5, Nazrana Khan (Ban) 3.5 lost to Y. Prathiba (Ind) 5, Zakia Sultana (Ban) 5.5.

The moves: IWM Li Ruofan-IWM Swati Ghate, round 11, Ruy Lopez, C77: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d3 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5 7.a4 Rb8 8.axb5 axb5 9.0-0 0-0 10.Nc3 h6 11.Nd5 d6 12.c3 Bg4 13.h3 Nxd5 14.hxg4 Nde7 15.Nh4 g5 16.Nf5 Nxf5 17.gxf5 Kg7 18.g3 Ne7 19.Kg2 Ng8 20.f4 f6 21.Rh1 Qe8 22.Qg4 Qe7 23.Rh5 exf4 24.gxf4 d5 25.Bxd5 Rfd8 26.fxg5 1-0.

IWM Aarthie Ramaswamy-IWM Iroda Khamrakulova, round 11, Sicilian dragon, B78: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 11.Bb3 Na5 12.Kb1 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.g4 a6 15.h4 h5 16.gxh5 Nxh5 17.Rdg1 Kh7 18.Rg5 Bf6 19.Rxh5+ gxh5 20.Qd3 Rxc3 21.Qxc3 e5 22.Ne2 Bxh4 23.Qd2 Be6 24.Nc3 f5 25.Qh2 fxe4 26.Nxe4 Rxf3 27.Ng5+ Bxg5 28.Qxh5+ Kg7 29.Bxg5 Qa5 30.Bh6+ 1-0.

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