Born: March 31, 1987 | Federation: India | Rating: 2574
Humpy Koneru became a chess star from a very young age, and one of the first great Indian talents to emerge after Vishy Anand. Koneru's father was a strong chess fan himself, rated around 2200. Both her parents supported her passion for chess from a young age, so much so that they even named her “Hampi” (transcribed later on as “Humpy”) as a variation from “champion”.
The list of her achievements at junior competitions is staggering. She won gold medals at the 1997 World Youth Chess Championship (U10 girls), 1998 (U12 girls), 2000 (U14 girls), and 2001 (under 20). She also tied for first in the 2002 World Junior Championship, but on that occasion, the gold went to Zhao Xue, who had a better tie-break.
Humpy won the British Women's Championship in 2000 and in 2002, and the Indian Women's Championship in 2003.
In May 2002, Koneru achieved her 3rd GM Norm in the Elekes Memorial Grandmaster tournament in Budapest to become the youngest woman at the time to become a grandmaster. With just 15 years, 1 month and 27 days, she broke Judit Polgar’s record. Only Hou Yifan was able to improve this mark some years later.
In 2004, she decided to participate in the open section of the 2004 World Junior Championship. The victory went to her countryman Pentala Harikrishna, but Koneru’s result, tying for 5th, was nothing short of impressive, especially taking into account that she was only 17, and most of the field was 2 or 3 years older than her.
That same year, Humpy was very close to honouring her name when she reached the semi-finals in her first participation in the Women’s World Championship. She would reach a similar result again in 2008 and 2010.
In 2011, Humpy won the FIDE Grand Prix series and qualified for a match against Hou Yifan. Once again Koneru got a shot at the title, but in the match in Tirana Hou Yifan was at her prime, and the victory went to the Chinese with a favourable score of three victories and five draws.
At the 2015 world championship in Sochi, Koneru made it to the quarterfinals, where she was defeated by the future champion Mariya Muzychuk in the tie-break. Having won pretty much everything else, the World Championship title is the only accomplishment that has eluded Humpy so far – something that she is very ear to fix.
In 2017 Humpy gave birth to her daughter Ahana, which led to a two-year break from competitive chess. She made a very strong comeback, winning the Skolkovo leg of the Women’s Grand Prix 2019-21, the 2020 Women’s World Rapid Chess Championship, and the 2020 Cairns Cup. More recently, she led the Indian women’s team at the Chennai Chess Olympiad, where they achieve the Bronze medal.
Humpy Koneru holds some of the most prestigious awards in her homeland. In 2003 she was awarded the Arjuna Award, which is given to winners of sporting competitions by the Indian Ministry of Sport. In 2007, she was awarded the Padma Shri (the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India) for her contributions to sports.