Sunday, August 12, 2007

Refreshing Change - Article on Humpy Koneru's Father

Here's a refreshing change, an article about Humpy Koneru's father, who has been her coach/trainer for the past 14 years and recently won an award for his work in that area. Interestingly, he followed the same path for Humpy that Susan Polgar's father followed for her - putting Humpy into strong international open tournaments where she took her lumps from older, experienced male players as she honed their instincts and chess-playing skills, rather than showcasing her and earning women's titles in a much weaker women-only field of events in India. From India Times Sports Humpy's father is a proud man AMIT KARMARKAR August 11: As a father, K Ashok has had a few proud moments in his life. As a coach, it's a first. The father and coach of K Humpy, the world's second-best woman chess player, has been named as one of the Dronacharya awardees. There have been examples of husbands of reputed players winning the Dronacharya (like Bobby George in athletics and Raghunandan Gokhale in chess). But Ashok is perhaps the only father on this elite list. "I'm happy for getting this award," said Ashok. "But I thought I would get it after Humpy won the World junior (under-20) title in 2001 or after she became men's Grand Master (youngest lady to do so at 15 years, one month, 27 days in 2002). I think the Asian Games gold medals did the trick this time. It's great to get recognition from the government." Humpy, 20, also felt the award should have come earlier. "He deserves it a lot," she said, oozing with pride. "He has trained me for almost 14 years." The criteria for getting the Dronacharya award is that you have to be the current coach of a player who has won international titles in the last two years. So, there could be many fathers who had trained their daughters at the initial phase of their careers. But not at this level. "I didn't get much time to present him anything," said Humpy. "But I guess becoming a Super GM would be a fitting gift for him." Humpy is just three Elo points away (at 2597) from the coveted mark and she hopes to achieve it in Abu Dhabi this week. Ashok has always craved for out-of-the-ordinary. "Rather than having monetary belongings, I would prefer to be remembered as father of a GM," he had remarked seven years ago. A former National 'B' player himself (he qualified as there was no donor entry during his time), he quit his job as a teacher in Vijayawada to concentrate on Humpy's coaching and career chart. "I used to teach her for 2-3 hours a day in 1994. But when she came only fourth in the Under-8 Nationals at Madurai, I increased it to 5-6 hours." And along the way he took two brilliant decisions: helping Humpy play in Open (competing with men) tournaments abroad and skipping Women's National 'A' for three years (2000 to 2002). Playing with men took Humpy to another level as merely dominating the Women's National 'A' would have been a regressive step. "It could have given her titles. But she would have remained of that standard only. Playing in Open tournaments abroad made her grow." Meanwhile, there had been whispers about authenticity of Humpy's GM norms, doubts about whether she is being trained secretly by a foreign GM. "They were just rumours," said Ashok. "I have confidence in me. I have sufficient knowledge of the chess theory, like a GM, to teach Humpy."

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