Dubai: Queen is the most powerful piece on a chessboard, but in India it is still the game of the Kings. Women Grandmaster Koneru Humpy suggests a few key measures to improve the numbers in the most-populace country and feels the increased prize money and financial support, like in the Tech Mahindra Global Chess League, will only spur the growth of chess among women.
Replying to a question from Gulf News, Humpy, who was then the youngest Grandmaster at the age 15 — surpassing Judith Polgar’s record by three months — said the general scenario for women chess has improved leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades, but called for more active measures from All-India Chess Federation.
“If I take India’s case, I still feel that compared to the boys, the number of women players is quite less. Probably we need to work in the direction to increase the number of women players. Once that happens, probably the talent will come up slowly,” Humpy, who is playing for upGrad Mumba Masters, said.
Talent hunt and intense training
To achieve the target, the 36-year-old 2019 FIDE Rapid Chess champion said more tournaments and focused training programmes are the way forward. “I think they should host more tournaments for women, especially the young girls. And once they find the talent, then they should they should start to training them, which I feel is the key point,” she added.
Humpy was confident that the big prize money events like the Global Chess League, which is on the home stretch with only last couple of league games to go before the final on Sunday, will be hugely beneficial in bringing more women players to the sport and cited Indian Premier League cricket as a classic example. “I believe in any sport if the financial support is high, more people will get attracted to it. Even when IPL started, we see the amounts going higher every year and I believe it is the same for every sport,” said Humpy, who is juggling between motherhood and chess. “I have a lot of things to do at home. I have a five-year-old daughter who keeps me busy.”
Chinese Grandmaster Hou Yifan from Ganges Grandmasters is of the same view and feels the women’s chess is a lot different and better today.
Promising attitude towards women's chess
“The general situation of women’s chess has evolved dramatically in the past few decades. I remember when I was young, most of the events for women will only be FIDE official events and very few invitational events. Even for some open events, the chances for women players to win it weren’t as good as today,” said Yifan, who beat Humpy’s record as the youngest Grandmaster at 14 years and six months in 2008.
“In the past few years, there are more organisers and sponsors paying attention to women’s chess. There are stronger women players in the open chess tournaments. I hope that there will be a more promising attitude towards women’s chess and I also hope that because of our performance and experience, it will encourage more young girls to get involved with chess,” she concluded.