India's Aakanksha Hagawane becomes U-16 World Chess champion
Aakanksha Hagawane scripted her name in the history books when she won the girls' under-16 title in the World Youth Chess Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. She added her name to an exclusive list of Indians to win a World Chess Championship title. Viswanathan Anand, Pentala Harikrishna, Koneru Humpy, Abhijeet Gupta, Soumya Swaminathan, Dronavalli Harika, B Adhiban, SP Sethuraman have all won world titles in age group and junior (U-21) competitions.
The 15-year-old youngster who won the gold medal in the U-16 Commonwealth Championships this year in Colombo was India's latest entrant into India's World Champions' club. She bagged an impressive 9 points from 11 games and finished half a point above closest competitors Mobina Alinasab of Iran and Polina Shivalova. The Iranian girl claimed the silver ahead of the Russian on tiebreak.
In the final round, Aakanksha overcame Alicja Sliwicka of Poland as she played with white pieces. Going into to the 11th and last round she was tied with Anna-Maja Kazarian of the Netherlands. However, Kazarian lost to Mobina Alinasab and finished fourth in the tournament.
Aakanksha, who is the daughter of a wholesale vegetable seller, showed interest in chess from an early age. Srinath, Aakanksha's father is also a former state-level boxer and boxing referee. The young prodigy has been trained by former national player Jayant Gokhale of Pune.
The youngster spoke to the official website of the tournament and said, “This is my first title of a world champion. And I am very glad the tournament ended like this. Honestly speaking, I didn’t have some certain expectations about the Championship, I just tried to do my best in every round. My personal coach did not come with me to Khanty-Mansiysk, but we have another coach in our delegation, who helped me along the tournament.”
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The chess player showed her brilliance in the tournament as she won eight of her matches and lost only one while drawing the other two. She fell to Shivalova of Russia in the 7th round, who eventually went on to win the bronze medal. However, it did not affect Aakanksha's form as she recouped superbly to claim the title.
She was the only Indian medallist in the event as her compatriot K Priyanka finished eighth with seven points to her name. In the U-18 category, M Mahalakshmi finished 11th.