PUNE: Koneru Humpy is the first Indian woman to be one step away from being the world chess champion. She will play the title match against China’s Hou Yifan, an opponent she lost to twice in the knockout semifinals. Humpy set up this match by winning the Doha Grand Prix chess by staging a remarkable rally — 5.5 points in last six rounds.
Only Vishy Anand among Indians has reached thus far (world title match), and ahead. And the undisputed world chess champion in all formats of the 64-square game has been following the Doha meet keenly. He spoke to TOI from Chennai:
How would you describe the significance of what Humpy has achieved?
It’s a fantastic win. She has been missing out a lot of these events. She came close in knockout format twice but couldn’t finish it off.
I was following the GP from the beginning and things were not going well for her initially. And once Danielian Elina ( Armenia) started doing well, it became worse for Humpy. She had to depend not only on her result but also on other results. But full credit to her for fighting it out, especially in the last two games.
How do you see the evolving of Humpy as a super player among women?
She has managed to keep her high rating comfortably. But that big breakthrough was not happening. Now she gets an opportunity. India-China rivalry is good for chess. Having said that, Hou is a ridiculously talented girl.
What’s the way to beat Hou?
Humpy has to be tactically much more alert. The initiative has to be converted into a point. She has to find a way to improve her technique. There is no point in outplaying someone if (she) can find an escape tactically. Hou is not a clear favourite as such. But she is dangerous.
You don’t advocate the word revenge that strongly. But the match against Hou provides just that kind of opportunity for Humpy…
If revenge motivates you, go for it! But the main thing is to set your game in order. She has to train well and continue her good run in other events preceding the title match, the schedule of which is unclear.
Any comments on the problems between Humpy and AICF (Humpy had skipped the Olympiad and Asian Games recently)?
I would advice Humpy to forget everything. Just concentrate on the game.
Humpy reaching the title clash also happened in proximity to International Women’s Day…
It adds a nice touch. Humpy reaching this far is a huge thing for women’s chess in India.