Koneru Humpy – public and private

by Elisabeth Pähtz
6/22/2020 – In 2014 she married Anvesh, in 2017 she gave birth to baby Ahana. Then, after protracted maternity leave, Indian grandmaster Humpy returned to chess with a vengeance and has risen back to second place in the world women's rankings. Now she is poised to qualify for the Candidates. Elisabeth Pähtz portrays this extraordinary player, analyzing her games and telling us how Humpy is dealing with the strict lockdown in her country.

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Humpy's comeback to chess began with victories in two stages of the Women's Grand Prix, as well as in the newly established Cairns Cup in February this year. She is now the second strongest active player in the world, and the favourite to take one of the places in the Candidates. Sasha Kosteniuk is currently third in the Grand Prix standings, but she has already completed the series and she will likely be overtaken by one of the next few contenders. So the decision of who will make it eventually into the Candidates will be battled out between Nansa Dzagnidze, Katerina Lagno, both the Muzychuk sisters, Harika Dronavalli and Alina Kashlinskaya. However, it is unclear who that will be. When the last stage, which was supposed to be held in Sardinia/Italy between 2nd and 15th of May, is going to be happening, nobody knows.

Current standings of the Grand Prix Series 2019 - 2020 before the final event:

To understand the above table correctly one has to take out Ju Wenjun, as she will be challenging the winner of the candidates tournament, and Aleksandra Goryashkina, who is already qualified as the runner-up of the World Championship match.

I have already mentioned Koneru’s triumph in the Cairns Cup, one of the two last big and memorable women chess events before the crisis, and I feel like dedicating the remaining part of the article to this great chess event. Somehow, in this time of uncertainty even the events that took place a couple of months ago seem like something from “good old times” that should be saved, documented and passed to future generations as precious memories.

The Cairns Cup is named after Rex Sinquefields Wife, Dr. Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield, who was the initiator and supporter of this exclusive event, and was first staged in 2019.

The first tournament, which was won by Valentina Gunina, was quite notable and successful, but the second one, staged in the first half of February, turned out even stronger and was the strongest women’s round robin tournaments of North America, reaching an average rating of above 2500 and roughly equal to the average rating of the Grand Prix stages.

One of the decisive moments for the eventual outcome of this tournament was Humpy’s win in a seemingly safe and drawish endgame against the former Women’s World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk.

[Event "Saint Louis Cairns Cup (Women) 2nd"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2020.02.13"] [Round "6"] [White "Koneru, Humpy"] [Black "Kosteniuk, Alexandra"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E51"] [WhiteElo "2580"] [BlackElo "2504"] [Annotator "Paehtz,Elisabeth"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2n5/p3kppp/8/N3p3/4P3/Pb3P2/4K1PP/8 w - - 0 33"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2020.02.07"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [EventCategory "11"] [SourceTitle "Mega2020 Update 18"] [Source "Chessbase"] [SourceDate "2020.02.21"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.02.21"] [SourceQuality "1"] 33. Nxb3 Kd6 34. Kd3 Nb6 35. Kc3 {[#] As symmetrical and dead drawn as it may look, white has a very very small edge in terms of a more active king establishing on the 4th rank.} Na4+ $2 {the first tiny inaccuarcy by Alexandra, who usually loves active and dynamic play. This active move however forces white to improve her king and also weakens the a7 pawn.} (35... Na8 {looks strange at the first glance, but one of the key motives in knight endings are the construction of forstresses!} 36. Kb4 Nc7 {controlling the two golden squares b5 and a6.} 37. Nd2 f6 38. Nc4+ Kc6 39. Ne3 g6 40. Ng4 Ne8 41. Ka5 h5 42. Ne3 Nd6 $11) 36. Kb4 Nb2 37. Kb5 Nd1 {in generall it is very risky to play against edge pawns in knight endgames. For this reason I think it would have been practically better not to exchange the a7 pawn at any cost.} 38. Nd2 Nc3+ $2 {slowly starting to literally misplace the blacks knight position.} (38... Ne3 {who says A must go B.} 39. g3 h5 40. Ka6 Kc5 41. Kxa7 Nc2 42. a4 Kb4 43. Kb6 Kxa4 44. Kc5 Ne1 $11) 39. Kb4 Ne2 40. Nc4+ Ke6 41. Kb5 $16 g6 42. Ka6 f5 43. Kxa7 (43. exf5+ gxf5 44. a4 {was more accurate.}) 43... fxe4 44. fxe4 Nc3 45. Kb6 Nxe4 46. Ne3 $1 {[#] not allowing black to activate the king.} Nc3 47. Kc5 Ne4+ 48. Kb5 Nd6+ 49. Kc5 Ne4+ 50. Kb4 Nd6 51. Nc4 Nf5 (51... Nb7 52. a4 Kd5 53. Kc3 e4 54. a5 Kc6 55. a6 Nc5 56. a7 Kb7 57. Kd4 Nb3+ 58. Kxe4 Kxa7 59. Ne5 {which should be practical lost as well.}) 52. Kc5 h5 53. Nd2 Nd6 54. a4 Nb7+ 55. Kc6 Nd8+ 56. Kc7 Ke7 57. a5 Ne6+ 58. Kc6 Kd8 59. a6 Kc8 60. a7 Nd4+ 61. Kb6 1-0

Even after the loss Alexandra still kept excellent chances to join the lead and force a tiebreak match until the very last round, where she was outplayed by the reigning world champion Ju Wenjun.

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Another great victory by Humpy Koneru over 2019 Cairns Cup winner Valentian Gunina is exclusively commentated by Humpy herself:

[Event "CAIRNS CUP"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.02.15"] [Round "8"] [White "Humpy"] [Black "Gunina Valentina"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D48"] [WhiteElo "2580"] [BlackElo "2460"] [Annotator "humpy"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] {My journey to Cairins cup in Saintlouis is very special one as this is my first visit to USA! Infact I was supposed to arrive two days before the opening cermony,Due to last minute issues with the iternary I arrived few hours before the opening cermony.} 1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 {I often play Qc2 here and we already played few games in that variation.. .So I opted for my old line} 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 {well here I was expecting b4 from her} Bb7 9. O-O a6 10. e4 c5 11. d5 c4 12. Bc2 Qc7 13. dxe6 fxe6 14. Ng5 {I have played few games with this idea and scored well} Qc6 { Though I was not alert here,I rememberd the plan over the board which I implented 14 years ago!} ({correct was to play} 14... Nc5 15. Qf3 Bd6 16. Qh3 Qd7 17. Rd1 Qe7 18. e5 Bxe5 19. Bg6+ Kf8 20. Be3 Ncd7 21. Nxe6+ Kg8 22. Bc2 Re8 23. Ng5 g6 24. Re1 Qb4 25. Rab1 Bc8 26. Qf3 Kg7 27. Nd5 Qa5 28. Nf4 Nf8 29. h4 Bxb2 30. h5 h6 31. Ne4 Nxe4 32. Bxe4 g5 33. Nd5 Ne6 34. Bb6 Qa3 35. Re3 Qxa2 36. Nb4 Qa4 37. Rxb2 Rhf8 38. Qg3 Nf4 39. Rb1 Kg8 40. Bc2 Rxe3 41. Qxe3 { 1-0 (41) Koneru,H (2537)-Smeets,J (2550) Wijk aan Zee 2006}) 15. Qf3 h6 ({ This was the first game available in the database.} 15... Bc5 16. Qh3 Ke7 17. Nf3 b4 18. Ne2 Nxe4 19. Ned4 Qb6 20. Bxe4 Bxe4 21. Qg4 Bxd4 22. Qxe4 Bf6 23. Qxc4 Rac8 24. Qg4 Rhe8 25. Bg5 Kf7 26. Rad1 Qb5 27. Rd2 h6 28. Be3 Red8 29. Nd4 Qd5 30. b3 a5 31. Rfd1 Ne5 32. Qe2 Qb7 33. h3 Rd5 34. f4 Nc6 35. Nxe6 Rxd2 36. Qxd2 Ne7 37. Nd8+ Rxd8 38. Qxd8 Kg6 39. Qd3+ {1-0 (39) Gligoric, S (2530) -Ljubojevic,L (2605) Linares 1981 MCL [Kharitonov]}) 16. Qh3 hxg5 (16... Nc5 17. Be3 Bc8 18. e5 hxg5 19. Qxh8 Bb7 20. f3 Nfd7 21. Bxg5 Nxe5 22. Rad1 Nf7 23. Bg6 Nd3 24. Qh5 Nde5 25. Be4 Qc5+ 26. Kh1 g6 27. Qh4 Bc6 28. Bxc6+ Qxc6 29. Ne4 Bg7 30. Bf6 Kf8 31. Bxg7+ Kxg7 32. Qf6+ Kg8 33. Rd4 Rf8 34. Rfd1 Kh7 35. Ng5+ Kg8 36. Nxe6 {1-0 (36) Koneru,H (2545)-Karpov,A (2668) Cap d'Agde 2006}) (16... e5 {is met with} 17. Nd5 Nc5 18. Be3 Bc8 19. Qh4 Rg8 20. Nf3 Nxd5 21. exd5 Qf6 22. Qg3) 17. Qxh8 {though its already bad postion for black, it makes sense to play g4} Ne5 (17... g4 18. Bf4 O-O-O 19. Qh4 b4 20. Na4 e5 21. Be3 Qe6 22. Rac1 Kb8 23. Rfd1) 18. Bxg5 Nf7 19. Qh4 Be7 20. Rad1 Qc5 21. e5 {activating the diagonal for light squared bishop and also opening the "'e'" file to exploit the weak king and at the same time vacated the importnant e4 square to oppose the black bishop.} (21. Be3 Qb4 22. e5 Nxe5 23. Bd4 Qxb2 24. Bh7 Nxh7 25. Qh5+ Nf7 26. Qxh7 O-O-O 27. Qxg7) 21... Nxe5 (21... Qxe5 22. Bg6 Kf8 23. Be3 Qc7 24. Qh3 e5 25. Qe6) 22. Bxf6 Bxf6 23. Qh5+ Ke7 24. Be4 {No more counter play for black.} Bc6 25. Bxc6 Qxc6 26. Rfe1 Nd3 27. Nd5+ Kf8 28. Nxf6 gxf6 29. Qh8+ Kf7 30. Qh7+ Ke8 31. Re3 Nf4 32. Qg8+ Ke7 33. Qg7+ Ke8 34. Rd4 c3 35. bxc3 { This was my penultimate round win,Which gave me the title without much difficulties,Valentina Gunina was in terrible bad shape in the whole tournament ,But she had entertained lot of spectaters with her style of play.I was not expecting at all to win this tournament after my early loss in the 2nd round with Maria Muzychuk.Things turned in my favour after I won the two consecutive games in round 5 and 6.} 1-0

Humpy Koneru is a chess grandmaster from India, who in 2002, Koneru became the youngest woman ever to achieve the title (not WGM but IGM!) at the age of 15 years, 1 month, 27 days. With that she Judit Polgár's previous mark by three months. In 2007 she reached an Elo rating of 2606, the second female player, after Judit, to exceed 2600 (Chinese GM Hou Yifan was the third a year later). She is the current Women's World Rapid Chess Champion, a title she won in Moscow 2019.

A word to her name: "Koneru" is the family name of her parents, "Humpy" her given name – originally it was "Hampi", taken from the word "Champion." In the state of Andra Pradesh, as in the West, women get the surname of the husband. In this case that would be "Dasari". "But nowadays," Humpy told me, "we are also turning modern. Many professionals and working women are sticking on with their maiden family name. In official matters I mostly give my name as "Dasari Humpy", but for the chess public it will remain as Koneru Humpy. Her family and close friends call her "Humpy", the Prime Minister would call her "Mrs Humpy". A headline like "Koneru wins again" is jarring: her father won? Here's an article by Frederic Friedel on how names work.

In August 2014 Humpy married Anvesh Dasari, who studied electrical engineering in Purdue University, USA, and has been working in his father's company, Efftronics, as vice president, for the past ten years. The couple has one daughter, Ahana, now two years and ten months.

The family lives in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. Humpy tells us: "My daughter and I have been staying home for three months now, due to the covid pandemic. The situation in India is very bad, as every day around 10,000 people are infected. My husband has to go to the office to manage business."

Locked down at home, cooking in her kitchen. Humpy has thankfully sent us her favorite Andhra fish curry recipe.

Nellore Chepala Pulusu

Tangy Andhra style fish curry in tamarind sauce

6 tablespoon gingely (sesame) oil
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
3 dried red chillies
5 sprigs curry leaves
8 cloves minced garlic
4 green chillies
15–20 shallots (small onions)
Big lemon size tamarind
6 very ripe tomatoes
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons red chilli powder
3 teaspoons coriander powder (dhania)
1.5 teaspoon salt
500 grams fresh water fish with bones

For the spice powder

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper

  • Heat 6-8 tablespoons of gingely (sesame) oil in a pan. Be generous with the oil. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, dried red chillies and curry leaves. Lots of curry leaves (I used about five sprigs). Fry until the curry leaves are crisp.
  • Add in the finely minced garlic, chopped green chillies and finely chopped shallots (small onions). Add green chillies according to your taste. Fry until they are light brown. The oil will bubble up if you are using gingely oil – that's fine.
  • Soak a big lemon size tamarind in two cups of water. Let it soak for 20 minutes. Make a pulp by squeezing the tamarind well. Strain the pulp to get rid of the seeds. Set aside.
  • Puree six tomatoes in a blender. Set aside.
  • Add in the tomato puree and the tamarind pulp. Add in a teaspoon of turmeric powder, two teaspoons of red chilli powder and three teaspoons of coriander powder (dhania). Add in the salt. Add two more cups of water.
  • Simmer the gravy for 30 minutes covered on a low flame stirring every five minutes. After 30 minutes the oil would start to float on top. That is a sure sign that the gravy has been cooked.
  • Add in the fish pieces and let it cook for 7-8 minutes on low flame. Fresh water fish works well for this recipe.
  • When the fish is cooking, let's make a spice powder for the curry. Heat a heavy pan and dry roast fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds and black pepper on a low flame for five minutes. Low flame is key. Do not rush. Dry roast until everything starts to pop and starts to brown. Remove from heat and cool on a plate. Once the mixture is cooled, grind to a very fine powder.
  • Add the powder to the pan. Simmer for a minute. Remove off heat and serve hot with rice.

Guess who's going to try this recipe, as soon as I can get my hands on some fresh fish. If you do the same, please tell me how it tasted. Incidentally, if you are in Europe you can get all Indian condiments in highest quality here. If you are in a large city in the UK or USA go to the corner store run by family Patel.

How to exchange pieces

Learn to master the right exchange! Let the German WGM Elisabeth Pähtz show you how to gain a strategic winning position by exchanging pieces of equal value or to safely convert material advantage into a win.

Elli (or Lizzy) is a German WGM and men's IM, currently rated 2473, making her the strongest female player in the country. She was trained in chess from early childhood by her father GM Thomas Pähtz. In 2002 Pähtz became the Youth World Champion in the under-18 age group, and in 2004 the U20 Junior World Champion.


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