First women’s rapid and blindfold tournament in India

by ChessBase
3/9/2012 – It was like Melody Amber, only a lot crazier! The first rapid and blindfold tournament in the country modelled on the famous Monte Carlo event successfully concluded in Pune, India last month, with the home team emerging exhausted winners. This historic women’s tournament held to raise awareness against the horrific social crime of female foeticide. WGM Kruttika Nadig reports.

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First women’s rapid and blindfold tournament in India

By WGM Kruttika Nadig

Women have a peculiar position in India. We worship a whole legion of goddesses and yet there are some sections of our society who treat women as sub-humans. One of the biggest crimes against the female race is female foeticide, practised covertly by some in our country even in this day and age.

Although the trend has reduced drastically with the spread of education, easier access to sex determination of unborn babies (legally banned in India) makes it emerge now and then. As part of a massive campaign against this practice the sports centre Symbiosis SPA held an all-women chess tournament in the city of Pune (near Mumbai) from February 23-25, followed by a simultaneous exhibition in which 160 schoolgirls participated.

The tournament format itself was as remarkable as the campaign, as it brought professionally conducted blindfold chess to India for the first time in history (and perhaps to women players for the first time in the world). Eight of India’s top women players were invited to participate in a “Maharashtra versus Rest of India” match.

Addendum: Not the first time in the world, as we have been informed. Last December there was the SportAccord Blitz, Rapid and Blindfold events in Beijing, which ChessBase in fact covered.

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But I am getting ahead of myself. For most of you who are unaware of India’s complicated geography, Maharashtra is the western-most state, of which Mumbai is the capital. Four players, including myself, were selected to represent Maharashtra, and we were pitted against four others from different cities in India – New Delhi, Kolkata and Bhubaneshwar. (Incidentally all four of us hail from Pune so it might as well have been a Pune vs Rest of India match!)

The “Rest of India” team clad in their team t-shirts in the foreground: IM Nisha Mohota,
WGM Padmini Rout, WGM Mary Ann Gomes, IM Tania Sachdev

The opening ceremony was graced by two very special women. Speaking above is Sucheta Kadethankar, the first Indian of any gender to cross the 1600-km long Gobi Desert as part of a team, enthralling the audience with tales of her gruelling expedition. On her right is Sheetal Mahajan, the first woman in the world to parachute jump over both north and south poles.

The tournament followed a double round robin format with everyone facing each player of the opposite team in both rapid and blindfold with alternating colours. The time control was 25 min + 10 seconds. The blindfold format was really challenging and perplexing at first. It was decided that the players would have an empty chessboard between them, and only keep the piece they wanted to move on the board. The opponent would then reply by placing her own piece on the board and removing the other piece. So at any given time there was only one piece on the chessboard and we all looked extremely odd squinting fiercely at nothingness!

WGM Padmini Rout, the top individual scorer. The young boy at the table is entering
the blindfold moves on his laptop as they are played

IM Tania Sachdev lost in calculation – no scope for even a moment’s distraction in this format!

The blindfold games were displayed live on this screen, invisible to the players on the stage

 Our foremost concern in the beginning, as a fellow participant confided in me, was that the boys watching the live games online would laugh and tease us for eternity. But as it turned out we all played pretty decent chess, reached several solemn rook endgames, and didn’t make too many blunders… although Soumya Swaminathan’s imagination did lead her to resign to a surprised Mary Ann Gomes in a completely equal position in round two!

Addendum: Soumya Swaminathan wrote us after the publication of this article: "Great article, written by my friend and teammate Kruttika Nadig! I would just like to correct one fact: the game in which I resigned in equal position, thinking it was mate, was infact a rapid game, not a blindfold one. That's even more disastrous! Anyway, thanks for publishing this article, it was wonderful to be part of this event.

Anyway, it was an intense and close match and our team won by a slim margin of one point at the end of it. We were thoroughly drained of all our energy, as visualising entire games demands twice the concentration and stamina you need for a regular game. But did we have fun! The youngest player in the fray, Padmini Rout, performed the best with 5.5/8… and we’d like to believe that has nothing to do with age.

The winning team, on the left in white shirts: WGM Soumya Swaminathan, WGM Swati Ghate, WGM Kruttika Nadig, IM Eesha Karavade. Dignitaries L to R: Dr. S.S. Thigale – Director, Symbiosis SPA, Dr. S.B. Mujumdar – President, Symbiosis Group, Mrs. Kakade – representing the sponsor Kakade Group, Dr. Vidya Yeravadekar – Principal Director, Symbiosis, Mrs. Leena Chaudhari – Symbiosis School Headmistress.

Team Maharashtra’s mentor and the brain behind the tournament: GM Abhijit Kunte

Coming back to the reason behind this event, our three-day marathon was followed by a simul where each of us took on 20 little girls, with some trained youngsters thrown in just to keep us on our toes. This was just one of Symbiosis SPA’s ongoing efforts to involve young girls in extracurricular activities where they can discover their talents and be better appreciated by their families and society. We hear there are going to be more women’s sporting events backing this campaign this year.

IM Eesha Karavade playing against students of Symbiosis School

WGM Soumya Swaminathan giving tips to a young player

My turn. The funny man on the wall is India’s most famous and recognisable caricature,
“The Common Man” by celebrated cartoonist R.K. Laxman

As for us chess players, we loved the concept and only hope that we were able to uphold the Amber tradition in our own modest way!

About the author

Kruttika Nadig is a Woman Grandmaster from Maharashtra, India. She has won three Indian national championships, the last one being the National Women Premier in 2008. She received her WGM title in the same year and also made two IM norms. In 2009 she won the Asian Women Zonal, which qualified her for the World Women Championship in Turkey in December 2010. Kruttika took a break from chess in 2009 to study journalism and started working with Economic Times, a leading business newspaper in India. She left her job (surprise!) and is working as a freelance journalist and semi-professional chess player. She like to read, write, travel and aims to try all the adventure sports in the world at least once. She divides her time between Mumbai and Pune, where the family has a house in the hills, with two dogs and a cat.

Copyright Nadig/ChessBase

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