CHENNAI: Koneru Humpy will be looking to go all the way, when she opens her campaign against Ayah Moaataz in the first round of the FIDE World Women’s Chess Championship in Sochi on Tuesday. The top seed would be hoping for a smooth start in her two-game mini-match against the Egyptian, who is the lowest-ranked player in the 64-player knockout event.
With reigning champion Hou Yifan opting out of the event; Humpy will start as favourite having won many international tournaments. Humpy has not performed well in her last two Grand Prix events but being a consistent performer at the highest level for a long time, the 27-year-old should be able to rise her level in big events. Becoming the Challenger remains Humpy’s best showing in the World C’ship. She lost the 2011 title match to Yifan in Tirana. If Humpy can avoid hiccups in the initial rounds, her chances of winning the title will improve.
The 2012 World C’ship saw the top two seeds Yifan and Humpy crash out in the second round, which is what makes knockout format a challenging one. Remaining consistent and keeping one’s nerve will be the key to winning the title.
RB Ramesh, who coached the Indian men’s team to a bronze medal in the 2014 Chess Olympiad, had this to say on Humpy’s chances: “Humpy will be the favourite in the absence of Hou Yifan. Yifan not taking part also gives hope to other players. The player who is highly motivated will have better chances.”
“Tenacity and playing strength gives Humpy a good chance for winning the title, especially with Yifan not competing. Only concern is possible rustiness having played less in the last two years. Hopefully, she has tried to overcome that in her training for her event,” was how summed up former National champion P Konguvel on Humpy’s title hopes.
Besides Humpy, former World champions Alexandra Kosteniuk, Antaoneta Stefanova and Anna Ushenina, will be the strong contenders for the title. Second seed Ju Wenjun, who had a good 2014, third seed Anna Muzychuk, and sixth seed Valentina Gunina, have the potential to go the distance.
Dronavalli Harika and Mary Ann Gomes are the other two Indians in the fray. Harika had a dream run in the 2012 World C’ship reaching the semifinals before losing to Stefanova. Indian No 2 has a tricky first round opponent in Tatev Abrahamayan, who has been making progress in the last one year. If Harika remains solid, she could cross the first hurdle and aim for more in the tournament.
Konguvel sounded positive on Harika: ”Harika has been playing extensively and training hard. She doesn’t lose games easily, which is an asset in knockout events. She will also be aiming for the title.”
Ramesh felt Harika’s chances will be better if she is fully motivated.
Mary Ann Gomes will be making her debut in the women’s strongest event. The 48th seed has drawn Tatiana Kosinteva, who has been one of the strongest Russian players for a long time, in the first round. Mary Ann pulling off an event cannot be discounted even though it’s going to be a tough challenge.
Aleksandra Goryachkina, who has won back-to-back World Junior titles, will be the dark horse in the event. The Russian making an impact is a realistic possibility.
After hosting the Calsen-Anand match, Sochi will be hosting the World C’ship for the second straight year.