Maiden national chess title for Soumya

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Soumya Swaminathan could barely recall her previous stint at the national women’s Challengers chess, back in 2005. The Pune girl, who was virtually overlooked eight years ago, came back strongly to clinch her maiden title here on Saturday.
Soumya outplayed Chennai girl Monnisha G.K. in the 11th and final round to finish on nine points, one clear of second and third placed Swathi Ghate and Bhakti Kulkarni, the latter who handed IM Nisha Mohota her first loss in the championship.
“I was not sure if winning the title was part of my plans initially. I just wanted to qualify to the National A but after round nine (defeating Swathi), I started believing it was possible,” said Soumya.
“Unlike the last time when I was just a kid, the pressure was high. I was cautious against the juniors because their theory is good. It was a very tough field and I’m thrilled to win it.”
In the final round though it was just Soumya, Nisha and Monnisha vying for the title, while at least 10 others were on the edge of their seats as the top eight were guaranteed qualification to the National Premier Chess in Kolkata to be held from August 25 to September 5.
Top seed Padmini Rout, who otherwise had a lacklustre event with two losses, hit the pedal at the right time with victory over Bala Kannamma to finish sixth.
Defending champion Michelle Catherina and recently crowned national junior champ Ivan Maria Furtado of Goa, played out a thrilling end-game draw, to earn their tickets to the Premier.

Final standings: 1. Soumya Swaminathan (9 points), 2. Swathi Ghate, 3. Bhakti Kulkarni (8 points), 4. Nisha Mohota, 5. Monnisha G K, 6. Padmini Rout, 7. Ivana Maria, 8. Michelle Catherina (7.5 points)

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