Koneru Humpy won the World Rapid title in dramatic circumstances by defeating Lei Tingjie in the Armageddon sudden-death tie-breaker (Photo Credit: Twitter)
Koneru Humpy's journey as one of the top woman chess players in India is nothing short of a roller-coaster. She was hailed by many at the start of the decade as a future star. Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand had already labelled Humpy as a world champion in the making. After losing in the final of the World Championship in classical format in 2011 to Hou Yifan, Humpy achieved some success but she also encountered some setbacks. Humpy then chose to take a break from chess in order to spend more time with the family. After coming back to the game after a couple of years, Humpy had a bad start but she ended the year in grand style by unexpectedly winning the World Rapid Championships in Moscow to win her first world title.
Humpy managed to finish 12th in the Blitz edition but her win is pretty similar to Anand's journey in 2017. After enduring a torrid time, Anand ended the year in spectacular fashion by winning the World Rapid title in Riyadh and also putting up a solid show in the blitz section. Speaking to PTI after arriving from Moscow, Humpy said it was a relief to finally win the title and not end up being second-best.
"This is my first world title. People were expecting me to become a world champion for a long and it really came unexpected. I was not favourite in the rapid tournament. I finished well in the final standings and it went into the tie-break. I was always the contender but I did not become the champion. I came close to it. I will continue playing and fighting for that. It will come, when it has to. It is a totally different challenge for the classical world title. You need different types of skills for different formats. I will continue to give my best to realise that one big goal," Humpy said.
Humpy, who hails from Vijaywada, had said she had never quit the sport but only stepped away from it for some time in order to raise her kid. "I always wanted to comeback and it was planned. Once she (my daughter) was born, I thought after she was one-year-old, I decided to start playing tournaments. But, of course, the first few tournaments were bad performance for me. Obviously with a break, playing at a higher professional level, it is expected that it is not easy to succeed. From January onwards, I started doing well. I started off with Gibraltar and did pretty well there," Humpy said.
Humpy, a native of Gudivada in Andhra Pradesh, grabbed the limelight when she became the world’s youngest chess champion. Her major victories were in the women's Grand Prix in September in Russia and joint first finish at Monaco Grand Prix. She was also the best foreign player in the Chinese League, where she remained unbeaten. Humpy, who has won multiple world titles in the age-group events, said she would be playing the Grand Prix finals in May in Italy apart from various other tournaments.
In the 12-round rapid section in which four games are played on each of the three days, Humpy was fifth after the first four rounds but slipped to 13th after losing to Bulmaga Irina of Romania in the sixth round. She drew the next game against Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine and beat Georgia’s Dzagnidze Nana in the eighth round. After draws with Atalik and Kateryna Lagno of Russia in the ninth and 10th rounds, she won the last two rounds to force a tie for the top spot, defeating another Chinese Tan Zhongyi in the 12th round game. Humpy defeated Lei Tingjie in the Armageddon game after they were locked 1-1 in blitz chess, the shortest format in the game and this completed her remarkable journey.