Humpy Sochi-bound

As Koneru Humpy prepares for her sixth women’s World chess championship, J. R. Shridharan catches up with her.

World No. 3 woman chess player and Grandmaster Koneru Humpy (2581) is all set to take a shot at the world championships — for the sixth time — at Sochi (Russia) from March 15 and she is accorded the top seeding owing to the pulling out of defending champion Hou Yifan (2672) of China. The 19-year-old Yifan, who has already qualified for the world championship title match, is likely to play a tourney at Hawaii during that time. “Maybe she decided to skip the Sochi knockout fixture as she has already qualified as the Challenger. The Chinese teenager will take on the winner in October for the World title,” says Humpy.

The 27-year-old Humpy was candid to admit that she was not at her best in the earlier edition. “I have identified the mistakes and ironed them out with the help of my father-cum-coach Koneru Ashok.”

The Indian Grandmaster, placed in the top half, will first cross swords with Egyptian GM Moopaz (2022). “I have players like Kateryna Lagno (Russia) and Nana Dzagudze (Georgia) in my half along with fellow-Indian Dronavalli Harika (2492). Since it is knock-out fixture I got to be on my toes,” says the Arjuna awardee.

Humpy, in her earlier five encounters, has won the bronze medal thrice and faced defeat in the second round twice. “Every edition witnesses a strong field as technology is helping players prepare well for this prestigious tourney. There will be intense competition right from the first round in this knock-out fixture”.

Humpy says the opening preparations have improved tremendously along with middle game manoeuvres. “Even rookies and junior Grandmasters look so focussed and unpredictable right from their first move.”

Apart from Humpy and Harika, the other Indian in the fray is Mary Ann Gomes (2354), who is placed in the lower half.

Though Humpy was secretive about her preparations, she, however, revealed that she had added a couple of surprise moves to her arsenal. “Now that I know with whom I am likely to play I am fine-tuning my moves and strategies accordingly. I have postponed the idea of going in for a ‘second’ owing to shortage of time,” she explains.

Humpy says smart phones are playing a key role in modern-day chess as youngsters constantly browse games and update their knowledge by going through news, views and reviews. “Though smart phones offer applications, the best training gadget, even now, is a well-equipped laptop or a computer as we get a good number of chess software for analytical and scientific training.”

After her Sochi sojourn, Humpy will take part in the World team event which will be held in China in April.

“India did not get an entry for the event as it didn’t qualify in the Olympiad. We are playing as a FIDE nominee. In the 2011 edition, India finished fourth in the team event and I clinched gold in the individual event,” says the Grandmaster.