‘I can never be faulted for want of preparation’

Koneru Humpy… back to No. 2 in world rankings.-NAGARA GOPAL

Koneru Humpy, who finished second in the overall standings of the FIDE World Grand Prix Series with a victory in the final round in Ankara, says she is on course to achieving her dream of becoming the world champion. By V.V. Subrahmanyam.

India’s best ever woman chess player, Koneru Humpy is back home after what she believes is a highly satisfying win in the FIDE World Grand Prix Series final round in Ankara (Turkey).

For the record, Humpy won the Ankara FIDE Grand Prix (with 8.5 points from 11 rounds), the final round of the 2011-12 Grand Prix Series, with one loss, three draws and seven wins. By virtue of this victory, she finished second in the overall standings in the Series that was won by the reigning world champion, Hou Yifan of China.

According to Humpy, 25, the best part of her showing in Turkey was the way in which she recorded crucial wins with black pieces. (Humpy finished with a score of 5.5 from six games with black pieces.)

“This is something which has not happened in the past. Apparently, I am pleased with this and it should help me a long way in my preparations,” said Humpy in an exclusive interview with Sportstar.The 2001 World junior champion said that the Ankara edition of the Grand Prix Series was very tough as most of the big guns barring Hou Yifan were present. Yifan skipped the event having already won the overall title.

“I met some very strong players including Stefanova Antoaneta in the first-half itself. By the end of ninth round, I was half-a-point behind, but two wins in the last two games eventually helped me emerge winner,” said Humpy, who is based in Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh).

According to Humpy, the victory in Ankara and finishing second in the Series were very significant in the pursuit of her dream of becoming the world champion. “I am aware of the expectations, but it is not easy to be a world champion. I can never be faulted for want of preparation. You do need a bit of luck, and having finished a semifinalist in the 2008 edition, I know what it means to compete in a World Championship,” said Humpy, who has earned the right to challenge Yifan in the next year’s World Championship, thanks to her performance in the Grand Prix Series.

It was in a way a double delight for Humpy as she regained the World No. 2 ranking after having picked up 14 Elo points from her performance in Ankara. Incidentally, Humpy is ranked above Yihan, who is World No. 3. Hungarian Judith Polgar is at the top.

Guiding light... Koneru Humpy with her father Koneru Ashok. "I don't think I need a `trainer' at this moment of my career. I am more than happy with my father-cum-coach," says Humpy.-RAJU V

“Rankings don’t matter really at this level; they can only help you in terms of stature. However, when it comes to winning, what is more relevant is how well you are prepared and (how efficiently you) execute your strategies on a given day,” she said.

Humpy has the distinction of being the only female player after Judith Polgar to cross the 2600 Elo mark. “It is a nice feeling to break that barrier. But right now, I am preparing for the bigger challenges like the World Championship (knock-out) this year-end,” she said.

Humpy, who held the record as the youngest Grandmaster (15 years, one month and 27 days) for six years (2002-08) until Hou Yifan broke that distinction, said she was peaking at the right time. “I don’t think I need a ‘trainer’ at this moment of my career. I am more than happy with my father-cum-coach (Koneru Ashok),” she said.

Humpy, who also finished second in the 2009-11 FIDE Women’s Grand Prix Series, is not ready to stay content. “It is still a long way to go. Each player is vastly studied by the rival camps. It is so easy these days because of computers. However, I look at this as a two-way process, for players like me also have enough database when we prepare for the major events,” she said.

Talking of her immediate targets, Humpy, a recipient of the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri, said: “Right now there are no specific targets. But, yes, I would love to keep working on openings and middle-games in preparation for the major battles ahead.”

She is very pleased that now there are more chances of being a world champion because of the different formats in play. “This is good for chess and for the players too,” she said.

Humpy is also very careful not to entertain any question that might even remotely trigger a controversy. “My focus now is on chess and nothing else. It has been a long struggle over the years and I am definitely happy with the way things have gone for me till now despite the odd phases of disgust and disappointment,” she said.

As for now, Humpy is quite happy savouring her latest success.