She is back to playing the kind of solid, ruthless uncompromising chess that made her one of the strongest women in the history of the game. On Sunday, at the Russian village of Skolkovo, she won the first leg of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix series after finishing her campaign unbeaten.

All she needed was a draw in the final round from the reigning World champion and top seed Ju Wenjun of China. She got that without too much trouble, in 35 moves.

This is Humpy’s finest performance since she returned to the chessboard last year, after being away for over 15 months following childbirth. It should be a morale booster for the 32-year-old from Vijayawada.

Victory in a major tournament was what she required at this stage of the career. As a girl who had been earmarked for greatness from a very young age, and who was far ahead of her contemporaries, she was tipped to win the World championship years ago.

But she had to settle for the runner-up’s trophy in the 2011, though she was seeded higher than her opponent Hou Yifan. While the Chinese woman grew in strength and stature since, Humpy saw her rating drop quite a bit.

She is still the third strongest female player of all time, behind Judit Polgar and Hou. She is ranked fourth in the world at the moment.

At Skolkovo, she was seeded third. It was her superlative display in the second half of the tournament that took her to the top: she scored four wins on the trot, from rounds seven to ten.

She recorded five wins in all, and six draws, to finish with eight points from 11 rounds. The other Indian in the tournament, Dronavalli Harika, ended with five points, following her draw in the final round with Russia’s Kateryna Lagno.

This was the first of the four Grand Prix tournaments. The top two finishers in the series will qualify for the 2021 Candidates match, the winner of which will challenge the World champion.
Humpy has every reason to be hopeful of being that challenger.