Top seed Koneru Humpy of Andhra Pradesh maintained her top position with nine points but it was less-fancied Kruttika Nadig of Maharashtra who stole the limelight, defeating defending champion Aarthie Ramaswamy of Tamil Nadu, in the ninth round of the National Women's 'A' chess championship in Kozikhode on Friday.
Kruttika had stunned the experienced Anupama Gokhale and held third seed Dronavalli Harika of Andhra to a draw on Thursday.
Employing the Morphy defence to Aarthie's Ruy Lopez opening, Kruttika suffered an initial setback when she lost a pawn on the 11th move and even offered to split points in her 48th move owing to a weak Kingside. But then she started consolidating her position to gain a pawn on the 58th and two moves later forced a Queen exchange. Aarthie resigned on the 79th move after Kruttika enjoyed a two-pawn up position.
"I was a bit nervous in the initial rounds but really gained a lot of confidence after defeating Anupama and going level with Harika yesterday. I hope to do well in the remaining rounds to earn a IWM [International Woman Master] norm," Kruttika said.
Following the leader is second seed S Vijayalakshmi of Tamil Nadu with eight points, while Nisha Mohota is third with 6.5 points.
Kruttika will take on M R Sangeetha of Tamil Nadu and Mohota in her next two rounds on Saturday.
For reigning Asian women's champion Humpy, it was yet another opportunity to try her Sicilian defence effectively against Sai Meera. Humpy won in 43 moves.
In another interesting game, a hitherto struggling Sangeetha held Mohota to a well-deserved draw in a Queen-pawn opening. In the end game involving 58 moves, the Tamil Nadu girl was enjoying a one-pawn up advantage.
Vijayalakshmi forced Harika, who employed English opening, to resign after 45 moves. With this loss, Harika, runner-up in the Asian women's meet held in Kozikhode recently, has been pushed to the fifth spot with 5.5 points, behind Aarthie (6 points).
Experienced Baghyashree Thipsay (IDBI) and Anupama, both of whom looked out of form, earned some consolation by winning their respective games against Bengal's Saheli Nath (Pirc defence) and Swati Ghate of LIC (Slav defence).
S Meenakshi (TN) and Eesha Karvade (MAH) settled for a draw to take their total aggregate to five points each.
Playing on the top-board, C V Rajalakshmi (TN) and Tania Sachdev (DEL) split points as also Y Prathiba (TN) and Koneru Chandrahawsa (AP).