A conquest in Spain

Print edition : November 21, 1998

Child prodigy Koneru Humpy wins her second consecutive title in world class chess championships.

WHEN 11-year-old Koneru Humpy landed in Spain for the World Under-12 chess championship, she had with her a trunkful of chess books for reference. Humpy was evidently determined to utilise every minute of her time to achieve her objective - winning the world title. And she did just that on November 6, a feat which she feels gave her a lot more satisfaction than last year's World Under-10 chess championship title.

Humpy is the second world champion from the Krishna-Guntur belt of Andhra Pradesh, after Pendyala Hari-krishna who won the Under-10 championship in 1996. This is possibly because of the training and exposure youngsters get there thanks to tournaments organised on a regular basis by the Andhra Chess Association.

Humpy, who is coached and guided by her father K. Ashok, has the most basic requisite for a quality chess player - she is unruffled in her approach, in any situation. Humpy has not felt the absence of a trained psychologist. Ashok said: "This title is creditable for the simple reason that many competitors knew about Humpy's game and tactics after she won the World Under-10 title last year. When she won that title, not many were aware of Humpy's background."

Humpy and her father K. Ashok, with the trophies she won at the World Under-12 Championship in Spain.-ARVIND AARON

Looking back at the victory in Spain's Oropesa Del Mar, an unassuming Humpy said that she regarded the game against France's Marie Sebag as the best in the tournament. "In reply to my English opening, she tried kingside attack. However, I opened up my queenside files and outwitted her by controlling the game to earn a checkmate." Referring to the game she lost to T. Kosintseva, the Russian girl many people thought would win the title, Humpy explained that she tried a novelty - b6 - instead of kd5. "I faltered later during that game and subsequently lost. But I was happy to experiment with that move spontaneously during that match," she said. On her mood and preparations during the championship, Humpy said that she was very comfortable with everything there. "My strategy was simple - never bother too much about games that were over. Just before every game I prepared for two hours and mostly concentrated on the Russians," she said.

In an interview to All India Radio before she left for Spain, Humpy exuded confidence: "Last year I was 10 years old and now I am one year older and a lot more mature and wise from that extra knowledge. So, I will win the world Under-12 title too." These words did not come from an overenthusiastic girl but from one who has the ability to translate her abundant talent into performance on the chess board.

However, the world champion feels that there are some grey areas in her game. "I sometimes play very badly in the middle games. I am concentrating on this aspect with my father, for I have to be consistent in order to be able to achieve better results. We plan an extensive study of the games of world champions such as Anatoly Karpov, Gary Kasparov and our own Viswanathan Anand." Asked how she would have fared if her father could not have made the trip, Humpy was quick to reply: "I don't think I would have won." Ashok said that he would request Humpy's sponsors (Bank of Baroda) to let him accompany her as coach-cum-manager.

Interestingly, Humpy said that she felt more excited when Anand and his wife called up to congratulate her than when she won the title. "That was something special for me. It was so nice of him to do that. And when I congratulated him on his victory in Tilburg, Anand enquired whether I saw all his games. I told him that I would study them later."

Ashok feels that the latest victory should open up new vistas for Humpy in world chess. "Humpy's need now is more exposure to tournaments. I want her to take part in as many events as possible. Competitive experience in the domestic arena is vital if she is to test her real ability," he said. Humpy's younger sister Chand-rahasa and mother Lata are not chess players.

Bank of Baroda, which financed the trip of Humpy and her father to Spain, has assured them that it would take care of every aspect of her chess career. However, Ashok is open to offer of financial assistance from any other source, which would come in handy for her future assignments.

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