Staying focussed

Koneru Humpy took part in the European League, Chinese League and the World Mind Games recently. J. R. Shridharan caught up with the Vijayawada girl.

Women’s world No. 3 and Indian Grandmaster Koneru Humpy’s suggestion to up and coming chess players: don’t depend on opening preparations alone. Form and face new positions (on the board) and master the endgames.

Humpy, 26, feels these tips are more relevant after the not-so-impressive show by Indian Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand against Norwegian youngster Magnus Carlsen in the recently-concluded World Chess Championship in Chennai.

“While Anand and his team believed in the tried and tested diktat of chess — the openings, Carlsen didn’t attach much importance to them (openings) but fortified his middle game as it evolved and came up with solid endgames,” says Humpy (Elo 2612), on her return from China after participating in the Chinese League representing Tianjin Club.

Humpy, 26, who won both the Armenian and Tashkent Grand Prix tourneys, is preparing for the GP fixtures in Georgia and Mongolia in 2014 along with her father-cum-coach Koneru Ashok, a Dronacharya.

To keep herself busy and focussed, Humpy took part in the European League representing Monaco Club in Greece, Chinese League in Beijing and the World Mind Games. “Top Grandmasters with a rating as high as 2,700 took part in the European League and World Mind Games. In the Chinese League I met a good number of new Chinese players with abundant talent.”

The Vijayawada girl helped Monaco Club win gold in both the team and individual sections. “In the Chinese League I played as many as 22 games and it was a great experience playing against several new faces.”

Humpy praised the manner in which China was grooming its players. “The credit should go to the federation. It believes in working in a combined manner. Grandmasters, coaches and new players combine together and share their knowledge for the overall development of the game. This concept is missing in India. It’s time we had such leagues where our players will get to play talented GMs from other countries.”

Humpy said the fear factor was missing among young Chinese players as they were confident of their skills. “They never get overawed by the status and credentials of their rivals. Right from the first move they mean business.”

She hailed the Chinese system as the best as it brought out talented players to the world at the appropriate time. “The World champion Hou Yifan, 18, is a perfect example. When the system introduced her to the world, she sent the best of GMs scurrying for cover.”

Koneru Ashok, the brain behind the success of Humpy, adds: “The scene is different in India. Here, both the players and parents are constantly in search of tournaments to participate and enhance their ratings and skills. Unfortunately the rating tournaments are very less.”

For Humpy, the World Mind Games threw a new challenge as she had to play on two boards simultaneously. “Under Basque category, I played against two opponents and I got into time trouble. I lost both of them.”

To a question on roping in a ‘second’ or a foreign coach, Humpy sounded unyielding and felt that training with her father will help realise her ultimate dream of becoming the world’s number one player.