Humpy - a remarkable achiever

KOZHIKODE, AUG. 29. She has done it again. That girl with an impish smile, Koneru Humpy, never ceases to surprise us. In Athens on Wednesday, she recorded one of the finest achievements by an Indian female in international sport - she won the World junior chess championship. It was a tournament for the girls below the age of 20, and she is just 14.

This is also the biggest achievement in an official World championship for an Indian after Viswanathan Anand won the World junior title in the Philippines, in 1987, and the World championship last year in New Delhi and Teheran. Unlike the other age-group competitions, the World junior championships are always rather strong tournaments and considered prestigious. And to win it at such a young age is a truly outstanding effort. The Vijayawada prodigy has done India proud once more. She has been doing that with an incredible regularity, ever since she burst on the scene as a tiny nine-year-old.

This is her fourth World title. She had won the World under-10 championship in Oropesa Del Mar in Spain in 1997, and at the same venue she lifted the World under-12 title the next year, followed by the World under-14 championship last year. In between she had also won a silver in the World under-12 championship in 1999. That of course is a big failure for her standards.

Humpy, sponsored by Bank of Baroda, is in terrific form now. Recently, she had won a men's Grandmaster tournament in Budapest, soon after becoming India's youngest, and only the second Woman Grandmaster (WGM). A remarkable fact about her great feats is that she has so far managed to do all this without the service of a professional coach. Her father, Koneru Ashok, a decent player, is her coach. He had quit his job as a lecturer to concentrate on her career. He should be the proudest father in the world now.

Humpy, who has an Asian and National title in the boys' section, is easily one of the greatest things to have happened to Indian sport in recent times. Only S. Vijayalakshmi, India's first WGM, has a better Elo rating among Indian women. And she is bridging that gap fast.

So where does she go from here?

It could well be all the way to the women's World championship. But she won't be content with that. She wants to be the men's World champion one day.

After all, her favourite hobby is collecting World titles.