In her long career Koneru Humpy has notched up several remarkable achievements. But, what she did on Wednesday night merits special attention. Or, rather, what she achieved without doing anything, to be precise.
She qualified for the Candidates tournament — the winner of which will earn the right to challenge the World chess champion — after she finished second in the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix overall standings.
What makes the feat special is that she did it without playing one of the three legs she had chosen from the series of four. Humpy chose to skip the Gibraltar leg, which concluded on Wednesday, because of travel concerns in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When she played in the first two legs — at Skolkovo (Russia) and Monaco — the coronavirus hadn’t yet raised its ugly head. She won the first leg and was runner-up in the second.
She had 293 points from those two legs. A top-three finish in the third could have fetched her the Grand Prix title, but she had, of course, chosen not to play.
She, however, finished runner-up in the GP series to Russia’s Alexandra Goryachkina (398 points); she had chosen Lausanne as the third leg, which was played in March last year, shortly before the world went into lockdown.
Humpy has no regrets at having missed Gibraltar. She is, actually, relieved that she has qualified for next year’s Candidates.
“I was closely following the Gibraltar tournament and am relieved and happy that the results went my way,” the World No. 3 told The Hindu over phone. “It feels great that I have qualified for the Candidates on my Grand Prix performance alone.”
Even if she hadn’t, there would have been chances at the World Cup or Grand Swiss or by virtue of her Elo rating. “But I could not have taken anything for granted and I could have missed out, too,” she said. “Yes, I was taking a risk by not going to Gibraltar. But I had to take that decision. Life is not just about playing chess, you know!”
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