In Polgar’s footsteps

The Anand-Carlsen Championship clash has grabbed most of the chess world’s attention.

Written by Raakesh Natraj | Published: October 4, 2013 3:32 am

The Anand-Carlsen Championship clash has grabbed most of the chess world’s attention. Meanwhile,there has been another world title bout,a teenage champion reclaiming her crown and a former contender edging close to a rematch.

Last month,19-year old Hou Yifan beat Anna Ushenina to claim the World title she first won three years ago. Last week,India’s Koneru Humpy,26,won her second straight FIDE GP (2013-14 cycle) tournament,putting her in pole position to become the contender for the 2015 World Championship match.

In the post-Judith Polgar era,the pair of Hou and Humpy has been at the forefront of the women’s game. Polgar (peak rating 2735) still remains the only woman to have breached the 2700 rating mark,but Hou (peak rating 2639) and Humpy (peak rating 2623) aren’t too far behind. Humpy,who lost to Hou during the world title bout of 2011,was arguably the first to ‘get there’,holding the record of being the youngest woman to become a grandmaster (at 15 years and 1 month) from 2002 to 2008.

That record,apart from the tag of the next big thing,has since passed on to Hou,but Humpy remains the strongest and most consistent among the rest for a while. At the top of the ranking list and always in the mix for the world title,Hou and Humpy are set to dominate the women’s game for a while now,but whether they will be able to realistically challenge Polgar’s stature as the best ever women’s player is not certain.

Polgar was so much better than the other women of her generation that she cut her teeth almost exclusively in men’s events of high pedegree. This ensured that her ratings did not slip (even a draw against a higher-ranked player boosts your rating) while she was matching wits against the best in her generation. Polgar has defeated nine current or former champions (including Kasparov,Karpov and Anand) across formats.

Hou has already gone down that road,participating in the Tata Steel tournament (among the strongest events of all time) earlier this year,finishing above the likes of current World No. 5 Fabiano Caruana. Humpy has surprisingly stayed away from playing the men. Her ratings have stagnated for the last three years and now may be the best time to make the step up.

Raakesh is a principal correspondent based in New Delhi raakesh.natraj@expressindia.com

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