Master Class Garry Kasparov

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Super-Grandmaster Koneru Humpy speaking

12/12/2007 – She turned twenty in March this year, and is, after Judit Polgar, the second strongest female player in chess history. She became a grandmaster at 15, three months earlier than Judit, and in recent months crossed the Elo 2600 mark, the second women to ever achieve this feat. The Indian portal LatestChess.com spoke with the national superstar. Here is the interview.
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Interview with Super-Grandmaster Koneru Humpy

Grandmaster Koneru Humpy holds the record for the youngest woman ever to become a grandmaster. She achieved the GM title when she was 15 years, beating Judit Polgar's previous record by three months! She crossed 2600 Elo rating on the October 2007 FIDE rating list. Presently she is at number two in the world for women (behind Judit), breaking the record of 2577 set by Susan Polgar for the second highest ranked female player in Chess history.

In the following interview Konery Humpy tells us about her recent performances, her views on the Indian women's Olympiad chess team, women-only chess events, the importance of physical fitness. She also talks about the importance of encouragement and support from the family, the role of parents. She considers Hou Youifan of China the best upcoming player, someone who can possibly match Judith Polgar. We hope the ChessBase readers will enjoy reading the interview with interesting pictures and famous games of grandmaster Koneru Humpy.

LatestChess: Hello Humpy, congratulations for crossing the 2600+ Elo mark. You performed very well in European Team Championships and Asian indoor games as well. You must be very happy with your performances.

Koneru Humpy: Thank you, I'm happy with my performance in European Club Cup. I scored 5.5 out of 6 games with a performance rating of 2800. However, I had mixed results in Asian Indoor Games. I'm not satisfied with my performance in rapid and classical. But, winning against Zhu Chen in the finals and taking Gold Medal in Blitz is satisfactory.


The Indian team at the Doha Asian Games: Sasikiran, Humpy, Harikrishna

In the last years you almost got selected for the India men's chess team at the Olympiad. This year, if you qualify, would you prefer to play in men's team or, considering the need for you in the women's team, you would play for them?

In case, if I get a chance to play in men's team, I'd prefer to play in the men's section. There is no point in expecting to win a medal in Women Olympiad unless we have players with 2500+ rating.

According to a study done in London, in chess women play worse against their male counterparts. The survey suggests that women feel inferior when they play chess against men. We are sure you won't agree with this survey. So what are your views on this?

As you said, I definitely don't agree with this survey. The number of players in women's chess is insignificant when compared to men. This number should increase, so that there will be more competition that will enable us to strengthen women's chess. As you can observe, now there are more women players with rating around 2500. Earlier we barely had one or two players at that rating level. I'm sure, we can find more women players at 2600 level in the future.

Do you think our culture will be able to make it more conducive for girls to stay in chess as they get older? What's needed to accomplish this?


Humpy accepting Padma Shri award from A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, President of India

In my opinion chess is more advantageous than outdoor games for girls. Excessive physical fitness is not required in chess, as is the case in other games. So, girls will be more comfortable to play irrespective of their age. Encouragement and support from family is necessary to continue their career.

Judit Polgar is famously known for avoiding women-only chess tournaments. Have you ever thought of doing likewise?

My concentration will be more on men's events. However, I'll continue to play selectively in some official events in the women's section. Probably the Women's World Championship will be my next tourney in the women's arena.

What are your views on women-only chess events? Are they useful for encouraging more women to participate?

Now-a-days women's events are also gaining popularity. In the recent times more invitation tournaments, like the North Urals Cup, are being organized in the women's section. Women-only events help a lot. They will encourage more young girls to play chess.


Koneru Humpy winning the North Urals Cup in 2005

In India, many young chess players are ready to take a break in their education focus fully on chess preparations. What are your views?

I don't think that taking up chess as a career and completely neglecting studies will be necessary at an earlier stage. After getting certain level in the game, they themselves should decide their preferences i.e. whether to play seriously or not.


Humpy giving a aimultaneous exhibition during the Kaupthing GM Open

What big do or don't advice would you offer parents of enthusiastic and talented chess children?

Parents shouldn't compel children to play chess. If children are genuinely interested in the game, they should encourage them. But, they shouldn't hurry to get results.

How often do you exercise? Do you think daily physical exercise can help a chess player to cope with pressure and increase the brain's ability to concentrate?

I spend around one hour per day on physical exercise. Exercise is a must for every chess player. As the proverb says, "a sound mind in a sound body". Exercise shows a lot of impact on brain.


Koneru Humpy at the Wijk aan Zee tournament in 2006

Who do you consider the best up coming young female players in the world, aside from yourself? Do you think, any of the current young crop can match with Judith Polgar?

I consider Hou Yifan of China as the best upcoming player. She is performing outstandingly for her age. If she improves further and shows stability, she can possibly match with Judith Polgar.


Chinese super-talent: 13-year-old Hou Yifan

You are the only one who is much closer to the strongest female chess player in the world. What feeling do you get when you are described as one of the best female chess players of all time?

Being a woman I'm enjoying my status as one of the best female players. But I'll be happy if I am successful among men.


Winning the Kaupthing GM Open in July 2007

Could you tell us a few words about you most important career achievements?

Winning World Junior in 2001 at the age of fourteen and becoming Grandmaster in 2002 at the age of fifteen are important achievements. I consider winning two International Open tournaments in Europe as my best performance so far.

Where do you see yourself in next one year? What are your expectations?

My next target is to win the Women's World Championship. As far as rating is concerned I want to cross 2650.

The original interview appeared on the web site Latest Chess


Pictures from the Koneru Humpy album: as a child top left with her father, on a plane to the Under 10 world championship, at the boys' Under 14, with the World Junior Trophy in 2001, after winning the World U14 in Dortmund (bottom centre and right).

Note that this young lady's first name is Humpy, her surname is Koneru. In her home state of Andhra Pradesh, and in many parts of South India, the surname is written first. Her father Koneru Ashok, a chess player himself, derived her first name from the word "Champion", with a vision that one day she would become the World Chess Champion. Subsequently, he has changed it to Humpy, to make it sound like a Russian name.

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