Tuesday, Aug 13, 2002
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By P. K. Ajith Kumar
But a few weeks ago at Hyderabad, she broke down, uncancellable, in front of so many people. "I felt bad seeing her cry,'' said a player who witnessed that scene.
She had just come to the Andhra capital from Hungary after securing her final Grandmaster norm that would make her the world's youngest female to be GM and instead of bouquets what she got were suspicious stares, from people who mattered. She simply wasn't prepared for it. But there she was, at the centre of a silly controversy.
``She hadn't fulfilled the criterion to get the GM title,'' it was said. There had already been allegations that the norms she made in Hungary were of dubious nature. It was also said that she really wasn't that good and that she was afraid of playing with other Indian players. There also was this strange theory that she had a weakness at home, that she did well only in tournaments abroad. As if the chessboards in India would bite you when you touch a piece and those in Europe would advise you to make the next move.
What was even stranger was an attempt by some `well-informed' mediapersons to read the FIDE rules in a way to suite their argument; in this case it was to make it appear that Humpy hadn't met with the requirements for the GM title. She was asked to get the Elo rating of 2500 all over once again, when the rules say that she needn't; she had already done it, in the previous rating list.
"Such malicious reports hurt Humpy and me badly,'' Koneru Ashok, Humpy's father and coach told The Hindu on Monday. "I request the media to be more responsible in the future when such things are written about a young player; they should think twice before jumping to conclusions as soon as they hear some people say something about some other player. They should, if they could, rely more on their own judgment,'' he said.
Ashok revealed that Humpy played in the British championship only because they wanted to prove the doubting Thomases wrong. "But for all this criticism, she would not have played at the British championship. I wanted her to prove all these players wrong, and I am delighted that she's done that,'' he said.
He admitted that he and Humpy had gone through a very tough time. "Until recently all I had to teach Humpy was only about chess,'' he said. "But during the last couple of months I've had to explain about life and the difficulties one has to face for no fault of one's own. All those remarks made in bad taste about her had also made Humpy more determined to do well in England.''
She did very well of course, winning the ladies title, as well as finishing 12th overall. Needless to say she did better than all the other Indian women, and some men, even prompting her critics to suggest she has become the best Indian female player overnight.
``I am very happy to prove my critics wrong,'' said Humpy, ''and it makes me feel nice that I have been able to do well against the top-seeded players. I thought I played good chess against Mark Hebden and (Krishnan) Sasikiran.''
Ashok said he was impressed by her games at Torquay. "She played very consistent chess, and I liked the way she handled her bishop in the game against Sasikiran. I feel vindicated that she has now proved that she could hold her own against the Indian GMs,'' he said.
Humpy said her next assignment would be the World Cup in Hyderabad in October. "But I don't yet know of its format, and as soon as I do, I will start preparing,'' she said.
Her father said he still had no plan to seek a foreign coach for her. "Since she's doing well now under me, I don't think I should upset her rhythm. But I won't hesitate to look for another coach when it is necessary. For now though, I would like to have some practice matches for her with players with a rating of around 2550.''
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