Woman Grandmaster Bhakti Kulkarni remained in sole lead following a draw with Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova of Uzbekistan in the sixth round of Asian continental women’s chess championship.
The draw took Bhakti to five points out of a possible six and she remained a half point ahead of nearest rivals — Dinara Saduakassova of Kazakhstan, Li Xueyi of China and Tokhirjonova — all of whom have 4.5 points apiece.
With just three rounds to go, Soumya Swamithan is also within striking distance of the leaders on four points. In the sixth round Soumya came up with an inspired performance to beat Pham Le Thao Nguyen of Vietnam.
The highest ranked Indian girl, Padmini Rout will however need a lot of luck now for a podium finish after she was held to a draw by compatriot R Vaishali.
Padmini enjoyed considerable advantage in this game but it slipped off once the endgame arrived.
Bhakti seems to be playing the tournament of her life and it was evident the way she handled the opening with black pieces. The middle game saw her with an extra pawn which should have been converted for more but for once the Goa-based erred in judgement and the game ended in a draw.
In the open championship being held simultaneously, former national champion S P Sethuraman suffered a jolt losing to top seed Le Quang Liem of Vietnam. It was Berlin defense wherein Sethuraman went for some unwarranted complications in an equal position and had to pay dearly.
The other overnight joint leader Surya Shekhar Ganguly was held to a draw by Petr Kostenko of Kazakhstan after a keenly contested game that saw the Indian pressing for a long time.
As things stand in this section, Wei Yi of China and Liem share the lead on five points apiece and it’s a group of even players following them a half point behind including Ganguly and B Adhiban, who won a fine attacking game as black against Vietnamese Nguyen Huynh Minh Huy.
Among other Indians in the fray here, Vidit Gujrathi and Deep Sengupta are close on four points apiece while Abhijeet Gupta and Aravindh Chithambaram have 3.5 points each in their kitty.