Chess star Koneru Humpy opens up on comeback and Moscow title win – Hindustan Times

Posted: January 6, 2020 at 10:44 am


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Koneru Humpy has just returned from Russia after winning the World Rapid Championship title and finishing 12th in the World Blitz. But expectations are already highcan she win the Classical world title, the holy grail that has eluded her so far? On the comeback trail after a two-year sabbatical after the birth of her daughter, Humpy accepts she has had a great start in her second innings but will not be running after tournaments and titles like earlier.

If it happens, I will be very happy but I dont want to think too much about it, says the former world champion in Under-10, U-12 and U-14 sections.

The 32-year-old from Vijayawada spoke to Hindustan Times about how people took to her comeback and the difficulties, the difficulties of re-entering competitive chess, and why the Moscow win was unexpected.

Excerpts.

You have finally won a World Championship title after missing the Classical world title despite repeated attempts. Were you expecting this breakthrough?

Of course, I didnt expect to win the rapid title at all. It was never my focus and I was like 13th seed in the tournament. When I started the event, I thought just getting a medal would be a great result for me. But on the last day of the event, after a few rounds, I felt that I had a good chance of finishing at the top. My final game with the Chinese player (Tan Zhongyi) was crucial; when I beat her, I was sure of getting silver (medal). At the same time the other Chinese player (Lei Tingjie) lost her game so I got an opportunity to play the tiebreak.

Things worked for you in crucial moments in rapid section, but not in blitz as you lost the last three games to finish 12th

I am not a strong blitz player either and even though I lost the last three games, I can say that this is the best blitz result I have ever had. It went pretty well till the 14th round and I was in clear second spot, at some time I was also joint first. I think at that stage I felt like I got exhausted and collapsed, because in blitz once you lose the thread, it is very difficult to come back because of shorter time control.

But you had a great start, five wins in first five rounds.

Yeah, I had a great start and on the first day I lost to (Kateryna) Lagno (the eventual winner) a crucial game (in which) I was completely winning and I would say I was just unlucky to lose that game.

In general I am satisfied with my play. Not like before when I would lose on time, without giving much fight. It was not like that (this time), I fought, and I fought till the end.

How difficult was for you to decide on a comeback?

I was always intending to continue playing chess, I never had thoughts of stopping. I just took a break because it was needed but once my baby was born, I thought okay, I need to be with her. I told the doctor, she is one year old, so I decided to start playing. It was a well-thought of plan that I want to get back to chess.

Preparation wise, how difficult was it?

It was not so easy for me because a two-year break from chess is something very big because a lot of development happened during that time and also I lost board practice completely. I hadnt seen chess at all during this period. So, it became quite difficult and I had my share of failures when I came back. After three tournaments, I slowly started playing at my level and then I came back.

Is it more difficult now to keep your focus on the game when you have a family, a baby?

No, actually when I am playing a tournament, I dont get distracted at all. Once I start travelling for an event, my complete focus will be on chess itself, and I never get a second thought. But when I am at home practicing, then it is not completely chess. Its like any other normal person, I have other family things.

Do you plan to have a shortened calendar, or go full throttle into the circuit?

No, I wont be playing many tournaments, I will be very choosy about what I am playing. Even in 2019, I started by playing in Gibraltar, which is a strong mens tournament. I took part in that because I was playing after a long time and I thought it will help improve my game. After that I took a break for two months and then I played in some Chinese leagues, they were just four games, three games, so it was easy for me to travel and stay in touch with family. Thats how I maintained a balance. After that I played in the Grand Prix Series, which is the official FIDE event. So, I played two Grand Prix events and European Club Cup, three Chinese leagues and of course Gibraltar and then this World Rapid and Blitz Championship. I was in all the major official tournaments and the rest I played to keep myself focussed and to stay in touch. I will do the same thing this year also.

The Grand Prix Series was quite successful for you in one event (Skolkovo, Russia) you finished first and in the second (at Monaco from Dec 2-15), joint first. How was it playing against top women players?

It was very difficult for me because when you play a round-robin tournament you need very good preparation to outclass your opponents. Its not just the game but you also need very concrete stuff in the opening. For that I really had to work hard, not only before the tournament, but even during the event. I felt I was back into the game after the Chinese leagues and Gibraltar. But the only problem was the lack of opening preparations but I somehow managed without that in my first Grand Prix event. But now I think I am more or less in the normal state that I was before the break. In that sense, the first Grand Prix event was crucial.

How was the reaction when you made a comeback?

For sure many thought I will not get back to chess because I took such a long break. I havent played even online tournaments and I was not in the chess circuit. Even when I came back, they had doubts about how much I will do. Some of them said to me, now that you have a kid, it will be difficult to concentrate on the game. Its better to enjoy your life. Everyone has their opinion but at the end of the day the passion and the ambitions you have will help you to rise.

Do you think there is some unfinished business for you, winning the Classical World Championship, maybe?

Yeah true, thats haunting me. But I dont want to think about it too much. Just want to concentrate on improving my game and I really dont know whether I will end up winning the world title or not, but I will keep on trying.

Continued here:

Chess star Koneru Humpy opens up on comeback and Moscow title win - Hindustan Times

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January 6th, 2020 at 10:44 am

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