A few days ago, Koneru Humpy hit the headlines around the world. She raised the nation’s profile as she was crowned World Rapid Women’s Champion in the Russian capital. It is the biggest achievement by an Indian female chess player.

The returning mother took a two-year break following childbirth. In the title clash, she defeated Lei Tingjie of China in the tiebreaker series (Armageddon game).

She was used to winning gold at an early age. She won gold in the World U-10, U-12, U-14 categories. More surprisingly, she participated in Asian Under-12 Boy’s championship and stamped her superiority. She lifted the cup. No doubt, she was on the steps of Judith Polgar. 

Koneru was world number 2 at the age of 18, just behind Polgar. She retained that spot for the next five years. She kept up the form and never finished outside the top 10 since October 2002. 

Koneru was born on March 31, 1987, in Gudivada. She learned to move pieces on the chessboard at the age of six. Her first tournament victory was in the Under-8 Vijayawada City Championship in 1993. Since then, she was never far from attention. She outsmarted everyone in sight in the U-8 state championship. U-10 National championship came her way in 1996. In 2000, she was the Asian Junior Champion. 

The next decade was action-packed. The world took note of her in 2001. Koneru became the World Junior U-20 champion. With encouraging growth, she rose to the Grandmaster level in 2002. In Asian Games 2006 in Doha, she stamped her class and notched up two Golds. In 2012 she delighted fans with Bronze in World Rapid chess Championship. 

She and Judith Polgar have a lot in common. Judith competed with men and climbed to 8th rank in the world. Gary Kasparov, Vishwanathan Anand, and Magnus Carlson were her victims. Judith was taught chess by her father, Laszlo Polgar. The same was the case with Koneru. Her father, Koneru Ashok, was her guide and inspiration. Ashok was himself a national level player. To fulfill her dream, he even quit his job as a college lecturer. 

The Government of India honoured her with the Arjuna award in 2003 and Padma Shree in 2007. She is world number 3 now. Her Elo rating is 2580. It is away from her peak. 

In 2009, it went to 2623. After Judith Polgar, she is the only woman to exceed 2600 mark. 

Chess has three formats – classical, rapid and blitz. Koneru has a penchant for the Classical version. It tests all the limits of a player. The way she is playing, she can achieve success in that format very soon. 

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