Deshmukh, Agrawal Leading With Powerplay

Deshmukh, Agrawal Leading With Powerplay


Youngsters WGM Divya Deshmukh and IM Vantika Agrawal powered through the opposition on their way to joint lead with 2.5 points apiece after three rounds of the Tata Steel Chess India Women’s Rapid tournament in a day of exciting clashes at Kolkata, India.

World champion GM Ju Wenjun was the only other unbeaten player of the day, closely following the leaders with two points. It was a tough day at the office for the Indian duo GM Harika Dronavalli and GM Humpy Koneru, who found themselves at the bottom of the standings with one and 0.5 points, respectively.

The Women’s Rapid continues on September 1 at 5:30 a.m. ET / 11:30 CEST / 15:00 IST.

Asked by the media about how she was feeling after such a great start, Deshmukh gushed, “I think the feeling is yet to set in—it’s really super fresh. I really hope that I do not end up having a disappointing end to this (run) and hope I can continue with that.” She indeed had quite a heavy day, defeating Harika and GM Nino Batsiashvili in the first and third rounds, both with black pieces, and holding Ju for a draw in the second round with White.

Her encounter against Harika in the first round was a typical Catalan game where White sacrificed a pawn for long-term compensation. After what seemed to be a mishandling of the ensuing complex middlegame, Deshmukh played energetically to take the game into a slightly better endgame:

In the second round, Deshmukh and Ju were engaged in a theoretical battle, which ended in a forced draw after 25 moves.

It was the third game of the day that brought out the real mettle of Deshmukh as she was staring down at a bad position from the get-go:

How did she keep her composure and fight back in this game? “I think the most important thing to fight back is to forget that you are actually in a very horrible position, and take every position as a new position, so that you can make the best out of it, and give (it) your best.” Deshmukh’s resilience earned her the praise of commentator IM Soumya Swaminathan, who labeled it as a “masterclass in swindling.”

If Divya’s play stood out for such resilience, Agrawal seemed to have come well-prepared for the tournament. Talking at the press conference at the end of the day, Agrawal confessed, “I wanted to play logical moves within my time. Last year in Tata Steel (rapid and blitz), I was feeling quite nervous, but I don’t feel nervous anymore.”

Asked if she worked on any special preparation to help with her time management, she responded: “Just mentally I am training myself to (play fast). It is mental, not chess preparation or anything.”

It is mental, not chess preparation or anything.

—Vantika Agrawal

Her mental preparation seemed to work. After a quiet draw in the first round against WIM Savitha Shri B, Agrawal showed her logical play in the second round against GM Anna Ushenina. Playing a controlled game throughout, she steadily outplayed her heavyweight rival in a nearly flawless game, which is our Game Of The Day, annotated below by GM Rafael Leitao:

Vantika Agrawal—strong mental preparation for the event. Photo: Vivek Sohani / Tata Steel Chess India.

Agrawal’s win over Humpy was a curious affair. In what seemed to be a regular position in the middlegame, Humpy was consuming large amounts of time for a rapid game and even ran out of time in a middlegame position which seemed to offer no special complications:

Being left with only about half a minute on her clock just after Black’s 23rd move, Humpy froze over the board before playing 24.Qb3+ only to see that her clock had already run down.

After starting off well with a score of 1.5 points from her first two games, which included a win over Humpy, GM Irina Krush seemed to suffer from a curious blind spot, gifting a piece to Ju in an otherwise equal position:

World champion Ju’s game against Humpy inaugurated the day. Photo: Vivek Sohani / Tata Steel Chess India.

It was an overall exciting day at Kolkata, where the thrill of the chess battles was palpable. Spectators could feel the tension in the neon-themed player’s lounge when they entered the place in-between rounds when players were resting before stepping onto the stage for their next game:

The coming days promise interesting battles in this well-conducted event: 

Pairings for the fourth round: Women’s rapid

All Games


The 2023 Tata Steel Chess India Men’s and Women’s Rapid and Blitz are two of India’s most prestigious rapid chess events. The Women’s event takes place before the Men’s. Players compete in a 10-player round-robin in three days of rapid games with a 25+10 time control, followed by two days of blitz games played at a 3+2 time control. 

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