Moves for a winning future

Print edition : November 21, 1998

As her career advances, Koneru Humpy will need to have her playing prowess sharpened through appropriate and adequate training.

THAT Koneru Humpy won two world titles, in the Under-10 and Under-12 categories, within a span of less than 12 months is ample proof of her potential as a champion.

Winning two world titles in a career span of five years is no ordinary feat at such a tender age. A disciplined and patient thinker at the board, Humpy's recent victory at the World U-12 Girls Championship in Spain has reinforced her reputation as a prodigy. And she has one more chance to repeat her feat in the U-12 category.

The toughness Humpy displays in her moves on the board is good enough for her to secure a good placing in the World U-14 Girls Championships too. Like many women players - and also FIDE champion Anatoly Karpov - she waits for her opponents to make a mistake before she strikes. She is strong on tactics, which flow from middle-game positions. At Oropesa Del Mar in Spain, she proved so strong for her rivals that most of her games were one-sided.

Koneru Humpy with a personal computer presented to her by The Sportstar, the sports weekly from the publishers of The Hindu.-ARVIND AARON

The Sportstar The Hindu

Humpy shows remarkable maturity for an 11-year old. Her approach is business-like and she is eager to learn. Her rise to the top has been the fastest by any Indian woman player. Humpy will probably win even the world women's title by the time she is 20. A world title is the end of the road for many. To achieve success beyond a title, one needs a certain drive, which fortunately Humpy and her father have. They are ambitious and also willing to learn and experiment new moves.

How far Humpy will go will depend on the substance and relevance of her study of modern trends in chess. Lajos Portisch, who found 12 hours a day to study chess, could not better Bobby Fischer who could devote only nine hours a day. There is something more important than the hours.

Humpy's trainer-father K. Ashok has limitations to his understanding of the game, but at 11, Humpy's learning capacity is unlimited. At the point where their skill levels meet, Humpy's chess career will reach a crossroads. That could happen even within a year as Humpy's playing prowess is on a rapid upward curve.

However, to be a successful trainer, it is not necessary to be stronger than one's ward. The fact that Kasparov and Anand have trainers is significant here. What is important is the ability to help and guide usefully in whatever way one can. Humpy's father was a player of National 'A' category; he narrowly missed qualifying in the National 'B' in Kanpur in 1980. His dedication for his daughter - he even resigned his job as a college teacher to concentrate on Humpy's chess - is an important factor behind her success. Using compact discs, inviting players of international standards to play for short periods and so on, can help the father-daughter team to spend the non-playing lean periods profitably.

At some point, Humpy will need another trainer to place her at the next higher level. Finding out when she will need a new trainer and whom to select, getting a sponsor to pay for the training, and determining when to look for the next trainer are major decisions her father has to make. The best players use about five trainers during their career span and usually one or two trainers at any given time.

Humpy said she had solved some problems with the help of the computer, and this means that she has already started using the Fritz5 chess playing programme and the Chess Base information source as preparatory tools. They were presented to her by The Sportstar in August this year. Within two months she bagged two national titles and one world title.

Grandmaster V. Anand advises Indian youngsters to play in as many tournaments as possible. Anand used that method to overcome the lack of training facilities in India compared to, say, Russia. The best way to practise is by testing one's skills with those of another. Vijayawada may not provide enough avenues for this, and Humpy may need to move to Chennai soon. P. Harikrishna has already done so. This is an option to fall back on if she is unable to find a suitable trainer later in her career. Top-of-the-line professional trainers like Mark Dvoretsky and Artur Yusupov are expensive to consult, but Humpy would benefit exponentially from even a short-term training under them.

Being stuck without progress can hurt sportspersons, and this has not happened in Humpy's five-year career. However, her playing strength has not been optimally stretched or fully tested. She has been able to excel in games with those in her age group. To succeed further, she needs to lose some games. Her father has realised this and is fielding her in the World Junior (U-20) Girls championship at Kozhikode instead of the World Girls Rapid Championship now on at Euro Disneyland, near Paris, where she could have easily got her third world title. Her career planning so far has been superb.

If the Indian chess fraternity and sponsors support her career further, Humpy will shine brighter. The Central Government, which did not even clear her travel costs to Spain, should at least now try to encourage the talented youngster.

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