Bhagyashree tames Anupama, in sole lead

Dronavalli Harika making a move in her seventh round encounter against Swati Ghate in the women's National `A' chess championship in Lucknow on Thursday. — Photo: R.V. Moorthy

Dronavalli Harika making a move in her seventh round encounter against Swati Ghate in the women's National `A' chess championship in Lucknow on Thursday. — Photo: R.V. Moorthy  

LUCKNOW MAY 9. Bhagyashree Thipsay and Harika Dronavalli, the oldest and the youngest in the field, are seperated by a huge `generation gap'. But together, though in contrasting ways, they continue to generate ample excitement in the on-going Women's National `A' chess championship here.

Take Bhagyashree, for instance. After losing to favourite S. Vijayalakshmi in the opener, this banker from Mumbai accounted for four opponents. Though she did falter against Tania Sachdev in the previous round, the defeat in no way doused the flame to chase her sixth National crown.

On Thursday, Bhagyashree displayed her resolve in no uncertain terms when she overpowered fellow five-time holder Anupama Gokhale and emerged as the sole leader with five points after seven rounds.

On the other hand, Harika may still be in her pre-teen years but is playing like a seasoned campaigner. Making her second successive appearance in the championship, Harika has maintained an unbeaten streak in a very impressive manner.

Her never-say-die attitude came to the fore on Thursday as she fought back gallantly to force a fatal error from joint overnight leader Swati Ghate and joined her on four points. Also reaching a similar tally was Aarthie Ramaswamy, who drew a listless battle with Saheli Dhar-Barua.

In between Bhagyashree and the three-player pack was S. Vijayalakshmi at 4.5 points. Favourite to win her fifth straight title and sixth overall, Vijayalakshmi fell half-a-point behind Bhagyashree after an expected draw, lasting just nine moves, with younger sister S. Meenakshi. But it must be remembered that Vijayalakshmi has played a round less than Bhagyashree.

Tania, having beaten her Saheli `didi' and Bhagyashree `auntie' on the previous day, looked too exhausted to try hard against Dolan Champa Bose. Following an irregular opening, Tania gained a seemingly better postion but had just 15 minutes for 25 moves.

Two moves later, Tania offered a draw which Dolan happily accepted. Indeed, youngsters like Tania have much to learn from older players, particularly Vijayalakshmi and Bhagyashree, who do not let go of a good position without trying to win it.

Bhagyashree's five victories, two more than any other player so far in the championship, is a reflection of her business-like approach. Qualifying for this championship by winning the National `B' title last year, the 40-year-old has surely emerged as a very serious contender.

After her shock defeat to Tania last evening, Bhagyashree, quite understandably, needed to score an emphatic victory to feel better. It became possible as Anupama played a bit passively in the opening phase of their Ruy Lopez game.

Bhagyashree's advanced central pawn gave ample headaches to Anupama who desperately tried to break free by sacrifing a pawn on the 28th move. Anupama did manage to launch a counter-attack but it was repulsed in due course. Soon, under time-pressure, Anupama committed a blunder and lost a knight. She resigned on the 39th move.

Unlike Bhagyashree, Harika had looked in trouble in her semi-Slav game against Swati. She lost an isolated pawn on the 40th move while coming out of first time-control. Thereafter, Harika fought brilliantly. Her fighting abilities bore fruit as Swati overlooked a `fork' and lost her rook for knight. In the ending, involving Harika's queen and rook against Swati's queen and knight, the youngster played accurately. Swati did try to stay alive by exchanging the queens but Harika was not to be denied and won in 53 moves.

Swati, after looking good by scoring 3.5 points from four rounds, has managed to add just half-a-point from the last three. Swati still has no respite as she faces her nemesis, Vijayalakshmi, next. In contrast, while matching Swati's tally, Harika has dropped just half-a-point in the last three rounds. Harika now faces Tania.

The day also proved fortuitous for Eesha Karavade. The debutant 14-year-old from Pune made double WIM-norm holder Safira Shanaz pay for her over-ambitious play. In fact, Safira could have won their Sicilian Paulsen game in more than one way.

Safira chose to sacrifice a rook for a knight and three kingside pawns and looked poised to win. Eesha was at Safira's mercy for most part of the match.

However, Safira underestimated the power of Eesha's isolated passed pawn and eventually resigned when she saw no way of preventing it from queening.

The results (seventh round): Saheli Dhar-Barua (3) drew with Aarthie Ramaswamy (4); Bhagyashree Thipsay (5) bt Anupama Gokhale (1.5); Dolan Champa Bose (1.5) drew with Tania Sachdev (3); Harika Dronavalli (4) bt Swati Ghate (4); S. Vijayalakshmi (4.5) drew with S. Meenakshi (3.5); Eesha Karavade (3) bt Safira Shanaz (2); Sai Meera (3) — bye.

Friday's pairings (eighth round): Meenakshi-Eesha; Swati-Vijayalakshmi; Tania-Harika; Anupama-Dolan; Aarthie-Bhagyashree; Meera-Saheli; Safira bye; (ninth round) : Bhagyashree-Meera; Dolan-Aarthie; Harika-Anupama;Vijayalakshmi- Tania; Eesha-Swati; Safira-Meenakshi; Saheli — bye.

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