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Check Mate, says Koneru Humpy

In 1997, a smiling, curly-haired, nine-year-old Indian girl announced her arrival in the chess world. Koneru Humpy, from Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh, won the World under-10 Championship at Cannes, in France. Not only that, she made a habit of winning world titles — And made a habit of winning world titles – World under-12 (1998), World under-14 (2001) and World Junior title (2002). She is also the only Indian girl to have won the under-14 boys title in the National Children Chess Championship, and the only Indian girl ever to have won a world title.

Sportswriters describe her game as fast and attacking – she seems to work out moves pretty fast in her mind and always goes all out for a win.

Who is Humpy and where is she from?

Humpy was born on March 31, 1987, at Gudivada in Andhra Pradesh. She started playing chess at the age of six from her father Ashok Koneru, a chess player himself. She won the very first chess tournament she took part in, in Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh.

As her talent emerged, Humpy’s father left his teaching job to coach her full time. The government of Andhra Pradesh offered some financial help. The Bank of Baroda gifted her a desktop computer to train well. Her school, the Chalapathi Residential School in Guntur, encouraged the whiz kid in its midst. She was given time to train for tournaments and teachers took extra classes to help her cope with studies.

Humpy’s original name was spelt as Hampi. Her father changed the spelling to Humpy, because the names of most Russian chess champions’ names ended with a ‘y’. Think of Anatoly (Karpov)! Humpy would train for five to six hours daily with her father. Initially she trained on the chessboard, but later also started training on the computer as most chess professionals do.

Internationally, chess players are ranked as International Master and then Grandmaster according to their performances. The prized title is that of World Champion. The titles are given by organisations like the World Chess Federation or FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) as it is known in French. Female players are given titles of Woman International master (WIM) and Woman Grandmaster (WGM).

In 1999, Humpy attained the rank of International Women’s Master. She was the youngest player ever in Asia to have got that rank at 12 years and four months.

In 2002, Koneru became the youngest female player to earn a men’s GM title. She beat the record set by the legendary Hungarian player Judit Polgar of Hungary. Polgar earned the men’s title at 15 years, four months, 28 days. Humpy earned the title at 15 years, one month and 27 days. The latest feather in Humpy’s cap is that the 20-year-old has become a super GM in the women’s section, the second to be so after Judit Polgar. Truly, Humpy is going from strength to strength.