17-year-old Divya Deshmukh becomes women’s rapid champion in Tata Steel Chess 

George Jackson

17-year-old Divya Deshmukh becomes women’s rapid champion in Tata Steel Chess 

India’s 17-year-old Divya Deshmukh, on Saturday, September 2, became the women’s rapid champion in the Tata Steel Chess that took place at the Bhasha Bhawan in the National Library of India in Kolkata.

The teenager lost her first game to IM Polina Shuvalova and her defeat meant that China’s Ju Wenjun caught up with her on points.

The youngster defeated India’s No.1 and second seed Koneru Humpy with black pieces in the final round. Deshmukh had to wait until the end of the match Ju, also the defending champion, and Ukraine’s Anna Ushenina.

After Ushenina held the top-seeded Ju to a draw, Divya came up trumps as the outright champion. She finished half a point ahead of Ju. The girl from Nagpur ended with seven points thanks to six wins, two draws and one defeat.

I was nervous: Divya Deshmukh

Deshmukh admitted later that she had butterflies in her stomach before the matches on Saturday.

“I am trying so hard not to cry,” Deshmukh, who was filled with joy after her victory, was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

“Though I entered the tournament with no pressure, as I wasn’t expecting to play in it, going into today’s games, I was nervous,” Deshmukh said.

Deshmukh was not a first-choice player in the tournament. She was a last-minute replacement for R Vaishali, the sister of India’s latest chess sensation Praggnanandhaa.

Vaishali pulled out of the championship. Deshmukh started her campaign as the 10th seed in a field of 10 in the women’s rapid round.

Deshmukh, who was a part of the Chess Olympiad team in 2020, was dominating to the extent that she maintained her lead on three days of the tournament. D Harika collected 4.5 points and finished fourth. Vartika Agarwal and Humpy ended their campaign with four points apiece. Harika was the joint-leader after Day 1 before losing the plot.

Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee

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