Women Make History
By Arvind Aaron in Nagpur
"It would have been a G.H.Raisoni Burial Ground For Men," said one International Master if Swati Ghate had defeated Sriram Jha at the end of the 39th National B Chess Championship. It did not happen and men escaped from the ultimate humiliation in Indian chess. .
Swati Ghate Sriram Jha
Two women qualifying for the country's prestigious event was the highlight of this event held from June 30 to July 9 at an engineering college on the outskirts of Nagpur city. Although the entries touched a record 275, only a dozen advanced. It included two women: Swati Ghate of LIC, Pune and Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman of Indian Airlines, Chennai.
Women playing the men's A started long back at Ernakulam 1978 when Rohini Khadilkar played. She came close to qualifying from the Kottayam National B of 1977 but was allowed to play. A number of women like Jayashree Khadilkar, Anupama Gokhale and Vijayalakshmi herself came close to qualifying on several occasions. This is the first time that two women actually qualified. Swati Ghate, 21, became the first to do it when she ran through the thirteen rounds undefeated. She did well that she did not have to fight the last few games and sailed through with draws.
Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman P.Mahesh Chandran
"The men are complaining that you caught the wind," I told her at
Nagpur. The highly improved Swati Ghate who was first trained in Sangli
by N.V.Padsalgikar (and later by Arun Bhaskar Vaidya in Pune) asked who
it was. "Ravi," I replied. "Which one?", she shot back. "My God, you beat
all the Ravi's didn't you?" I asked. With a blush she explained how she
beat Thandalam Shanmugam Ravi and Lanka Ravi. The first one from a rook
ending with a clear pawn down. She has improved that much that our women
have clearly bridged the gap in the fast developing domestic chess scenario.
If Swati did it with a draw, Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman our first woman grandmaster was for once pushed to second in a rare achievement race. She did it with a victory beating N.Sanjay of Mysore after her opponent gave a protest about the pairing. Needing a draw to make the next stage, Sanjay was paired with a desperado and his protest was turned down. Vijayalakshmi has enough strength to make the men team too and may actually go far ahead. These developments are going to leave the
National Federation in a predicament over holding Women's A and Men's A simultaneously.
Anupama Gokhale T.S. Ravi
Four players were new qualifiers: Mahesh Chandran, B.T.Muralikrishnan,
Swati Ghate and Vijayalakshmi are entering the National A for the first
time. Those who made an exit from the previous National A are D.V.Prasad
and Murugan (did not play in Nagpur), G.B.Prakash, Lanka Ravi, Neelotpal
Das, Atanu Lahiri, Saptarshi Roy, Sekhar Sahu and Nassir Wajih. Scanning
the region of the qualifiers, seven of the twelve come from Chennai.
G.B Prakash Lanka Ravi
"My previous victories were in Delhi in tournaments which were not
so strong," said Sriram Jha after winning his career best event. He is
from LIC, New Delhi. He picked up Rs.20,650 for his clear first place at
Many famed names bowed out of the race. The double round schedule and the reduced time control provided for the abundant quantity of blunders affecting quality of play. Chess is now a fast game that two rounds a day is normal and budget friendly for the organisers. Both Vijayalakshmi and Swati Ghate got used to the new controls playing the Zonals at Colombo in May and the National Women's A at New Delhi in June.
These twelve qualifiers, plus the four top non-GMs from the Delhi `A' along with the grandmasters comprise the next National A. The timing of the event was against the players who did not make it to the top six in the previous National A. Notably, Murugan and Prasad even did not come to Nagpur. "It should be held the other way, not this way," said one IM norm holder. The National A should follow the B, not the other way he meant.
C.S. Gokhale R.B.Ramesh
Since watching the Chennai National B's of 1995 and 1996, things
have changed these days. Many newcomers, teenagers all gathered at it was
held in "hot" Nagpur. The entry sour could be due to the location and increased
popularity of the sport itself.
One qualifier to watch is Chandrasekar Gokhale. There is no stopping him since marriage this spring. He won the Sangli Tournament and now earned a comfortable place in the A, although his older brother Jayant did not make it.
The final standings: 1 Sriram Jha (LIC) 10/13, 2-9 Swati Ghate (LIC), P.Mahesh Chandran (Ramalinga), C.S.Gokhale (IA), Vishal Sareen (LIC), Dinesh Kumar Sharma (LIC), R.B.Ramesh (Indian Oil), V.Saravanan (BPCL), S.Vijayalakshmi (IA) 9.5 each, 10-12 B.T.Muralikrishnan (Rly), Varugeese Koshy (ONGC), N.Sudhakar Babu (Indian Bank)
9 each. Not qualified: 13-24 N.Sanjay (CRSB), G.B.Prakash (Indian Bank), S.Satyapragyan (IA), Sundararajan Kidambi (TN), Kiran Panditrao (CRSB), Vikramaditya Kamble (Mah), T.S.Ravi (Indian Oil), Shankar Roy (Rly), Rahul Shetty (IA), Satchidananand Soman (Mah), P.K.Singh (Bih), Neelotpal Das (WB) 9 each.