Grandmaster and top seed Koneru Humpy is all set to challenge the male domain of Indian chess after roaring back to winning form with a crushing victory over P Konguvel in the 41st National 'B' chess championship at Smruti Bhawan in Nagpur on Sunday.
Humpy, who made it to the strongest open event in India, where formidable players like Grandmaster Pravin Thipsay, GM norm holder Sandipan Chanda, D V Prasad and International Master R B Ramesh failed to qualify in the past, impressed one and all with her demonstration.
With only 12 qualifying seats for the National 'A' with more 300 players in the field, it was always the survival of the fittest.
Humpy now leads the pack with 5.5 points out of a possible six, along with B Ramesh and young M R Venkatesh.
Ramesh, who had to be content with a draw against T S Ravi in the previous round, showed his class and temperament by stream-rolling last year's champion Suvrajit Saha of West Bengal while Venkatesh of Tamil Nadu prevailed over IM Prathamesh Mokal of Maharashtra to be in the elite company.
A pack of 14 players, including second seeded Sriram Jha of LIC, Deepan Chakravarthy, Ravi, S Satyapragyan, D V Prasad, Rahul Shetty, B S Shivanandan, Rishipal Singh, Amit Pal Singh, Roktim Bandopadhyay, C S Gokhale, Himanshu Sharma, Gurpreet Singh Maras and Vikram Jeet Singh trail the leaders by a slender margin of half point.
On the top-board, GM Humpy opted for modern variation of the Sicialian Defense against IM Konguvel. The game was on equal footing but in the middle-game Humpy made a breakthrough by spoiling the king-side pawn structure, thus gaining a minsicule advantage.
In return, Konguvel managed to get two queen side passers but in a complicated rook and double minor piece ending, Konguvel made an incorrect pawn thrust in hectic time scramble, which allowed Humpy to score full point.
Konguvel was of the opinion that he had a better chance to win the game had he preferred to plant his rook on the seventh rank instead of the pawn advance on the queen side.
The second board clash between Ramesh and Saha was also a Sicilian Defense game. Ramesh, playing white, announced his intentions early by storming the rival citadel, but Saha failed to produce the counter-attack. In a tactical skirmish, Ramesh won a piece on the 39th move.
Local school boys, Pratik Shriwas and Gurpreet Singh Maras continued their impressive run in the tourney with the former holding highly rated Saptashri Roy and Maras accounting for IM norm holder K Visweshwaran.
Veteran IMs Ravi Hegde and Sekhar Sahu lost their round to Rishipal Singh and Ravindra Dongre respectively.
Important results, round 6:
P Konguvel (4.5) lost to Koneru Humpy (5.5); R B Ramesh (5.5) bt Suvrajit Saha (4.5); Deepan Chakravarthy (5) drew T S Ravi (5); Prathamesh Mokal (4.5) lost to M R Venkatesh (5.5); Sriram Jha (5) bt V R Kamble (4); J Ramakrishna (4.5) drew G B Prakash (4.5); Satyapragyan (5) beat P D S Girinath (4); Prasenjit Dutta (4) lost to D V Prasad (5); Rahul Shetty (5) beat Abhay (4); Amit Kumar Medda (4) lost to B S Shivandan (5); Hegde Rani (4) lost to Rishipal Singh (5); V Saravanan (4) lost to Amit Pal Singh (5); Jayant Katdare (4) lost to Roktim Bandopadhyay (5); C S Gokhale (5) bt Srinivasa Rao G (4); K Nikhilesh Kumar (4) drew N K Mishra (4.5); Himanshu sharma (5) bt Ramu Kandi (4); Pratik Shriwas drew (4.5); Saptarshi roy (4.5); K Vishveswaran (4) lost to Gurpreet Singh Maras (5); Anand Awadhia (4.5) drew Lahiri Atanu (4.5); S Sudhir (4) lost to Singh S Vikramjit (5).