Koneru Humpy, the Queen of the 64-Squares

Koneru Humpy, the Queen of the 64-Squares

Koneru Humpy, the name itself is synonymous with chess, the 64 squares game; mana ammayi who makes it big and successful in the world arena, and how.

Koneru Humpy, the name itself is synonymous with chess, the 64 squares game; mana ammayi who makes it big and successful in the world arena, and how.

As a game Chess excites the intellect in people, but six years is too young an age to fall in love with the game. That was what happened to Koneru Humpy when she was hardly six.

Closely watching her father Ashok playing the board game, she was naturally attracted to it. Within a short period, she started playing the game under the guidance of her father. And then, There is no turning back once she started winning the competitions one after another.

Now the 32-year-old woman says that it was only because of her father, she started evincing keen interest in the board game.

First in India

Creating history to be come the first Indian woman chess player to bag the world champion title, Humpy won the Women's World Rapid Chess Championship in 2019. After Viswanathan Anand in 2017, Humpy is the second Indian to win the gold in rapid chess championship.

She claimed the championship title after drawing the Armageddon game against Chinas Lei Tingjie in Moscow last Saturday.

Rapid chess championship is a tournament played under rapid time controls. Each play is given less time to consider their moves when compared to normal tournaments. Armageddon chess is a particular variation in which different rules apply for each of the two players. Humpy had been dreaming of the world championship but, "I never imagined that it would be so soon." She says that she was very happy to hear the national anthem while receiving the world championship.

The winning streak

Starting at an early age, Humpy won three gold medals at the World Youth Chess championship—in 1997 (under-10 girls' division), 1998 (under-12 girls) and 2000 (under-14 girls). In 1999,;at the Asian Youth Chess Championship held in Ahmadabad she won the under-12 section competing with the boys.

"It is not the question of boys or girls, it is the game that is important," she said recalling that she competed with boys on many an occasion.

In 2001, she won the World Junior Girls Championship. In the following year's edition, she tied for first place with Zhao Xue, but placed second on tie-break. Humpy competed with boys in the 2004 World Junior Championship; Pentala Harikrishna won the title and she tied for fifth place, finishing tenth on count-back with a score of 8.5/13 points. In 2000 and 2002, she won the British Women's Championship and in 2003, the 10th Asian Women's Individual Championship and the Indian Women's Championship. Again in 2005, she won the North Urals Cup, a round-robin tournament held in Krasnoturyinsk, Russia featuring ten of the strongest female players in the world at the time.

She participated in the Women's World Chess Championship for the first time in 2004 and since then, she has competed in every edition of the event held with the knockout format. Humpy reached the semifinals in 2004, 2008 and 2010.

In October 2007, she became the second female player, after Judit Polgár, to exceed the 2600 Elo rating mark with 2606 rating. In 2009, she tied for the first and the fourth with Alexander Areshchenko, Magesh Panchanathan and Evgenij Miroshnichenko in the Mumbai Mayor Cup.

Humpy took part in the FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2009–2011 and finished in overall second position, in turn qualifying as challenger for Women's World Chess Championship 2011. Hou Yifan won the match, winning three games and drawing five. Humpy finished runner-up in the FIDE Women's Grand Prix series also in the 2011–12, 2013–14 and 2015–16 editions. She won the individual bronze at the Women's World Team Chess Championship in 2015 held in Chengdu, China. Team India finished fourth in the competition, one point behind China, which won the bronze medal.

Humpy, at the age of twenty, received Padma Shri on March 23, 2007 from the then President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

A comeback worth its move

The active chess champion had a break in her career after marriage, from 2016 to 2018, and shares that she wanted to return to the board after giving birth to a baby girl in 2017 as winning a gold medal has always been her dream. Mary Kom and Serena Williams, who returned to their respective games after giving birth to children were exemplary and she took inspiration from them, she says.

"It is not easy to succeed after taking a break that, too, at professional level. However, I started faring well from January onwards in 2019. I started off with Gibraltar where I did pretty well," she relates with a smile.

Her recent major victories were in the Women's Grand Prix in September in Russia and joint first finish at Monaco Grand Prix. "I was also the best foreign player in the Chinese League where I remained unbeaten," she states.

Humpy is lucky to enjoy the support of her parents and in-laws with both of them living in Vijayawada. "It is easy for me to send the baby to them while I am working. It's easy to manage," says the pride of Telugus, who has her eyes set on bigger goals.

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