Making rapid strides

Koneru Humpy’s July rating is 2572, so she should be able to go past the 2600 mark in the next rating list, to be released in October. In the history of women’s chess, only one player — Judit Polgar of Hungary — has been there before, writes P. K. Ajith Kumar.

By the high standards she has set for herself, 2006 wasn’t a great year for Koneru Humpy. “My game didn’t progress the way I wanted it to, and the main reason for that was that I didn’t play in as many tournaments as I would have liked to, because I didn’t have a sponsor,” says the Vijayawada-based World No. 2 in women’s chess. “After joining ONGC as a personnel administrative officer, I can now play in all the tournaments I want to.”

She could as well have said that she could win all the tournaments she wanted to. The 20-year-old won two open tournaments in Europe, back to back, recently. And in both of those events — the HSG Open in Hilversum (Netherlands) and the Kaupthing Open in Differdange (Luxembourg) — most of her rivals were men. She has always relished her battles with the stronger sex. She had won the Asian (under-12) boys’ title in 1999. She has won men’s events before this twin triumph in Europe, too.

Humpy says she didn’t anticipate her two latest victories, though. “My aim was to gain some Elo points so that I could improve my rating, which hasn’t changed much for a year. I had actually wanted to cross the 2600 mark last year.”

She is inching close to that mark now, having collected 25 points from the two European events. Her July rating is 2572, so she should be able to go past the 2600 mark in the next rating list, to be released in October. In the history of women’s chess, only one player — Judit Polgar of Hungary — has been there before.

Humpy is looking forward to gain more Elo points from her forthcoming tournaments so that she could go beyond 2600. “My next event is the Abu Dhabi Open from August 12. Then I will be playing for Monaco Chess Club in the European Club Championship in Turkey — my teammates are Zhu Chen, Pia Cramling, Almira Skripchenko and Monica Socko — and the Asian Indoor Games in Macau,” she says.

* * * McGrath & Warne in ICL?

Australia’s Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath are on the verge of joining an unofficial Indian Twenty20 league to be launched this year, former India skipper Kapil Dev said.

“They’ve almost signed,” Kapil, a board member of the Indian Cricket League (ICL), told Reuters.

“It is just a matter of legal papers. Other terms and conditions are agreed.

“Around 20-30 people are sitting and signing and going through the papers with their lawyers,” he said.

“It is only a matter of time before we make announcements.”

Warne and McGrath would be a huge draw after former West Indies skipper Brian Lara signed up.

India’s diversified Essel Group, controlling the nation’s biggest listed media firm Zee Telefilms, announced the annual league in May.

* * * Rooney’s new role

England soccer star, Wayne Rooney, and the “Worried About Ray” rockers — The Hoosiers — have teamed up to launch a new computer football game called FIFA 08.

According to The Sun, the game will be released commercially in September, and will include The Hoosiers’ new single “Goodbye Mr. A”.

Band members Irwin Sparkles, Alfonso Sharlando and Martin Skarendahl said that they were thrilled when they met up with Rooney in Manchester recently.

Irwin and Alfonso once fancied themselves as footballers and even went to America on a soccer scholarship.

They described Rooney as a man of few words.