The name of Koneru Humpy, India’s best woman chess player ever and reigning women’s World Rapid Chess Championship champion, has been proposed for the highest sports accolade of the country. On Thursday, the All India Chess Federation (AICF) sent to the Sports Ministry its recommendations for the national sports awards for the year 2019-2020, with Koneru’s name topping the list.
The AICF has also recommended six players — world No 22 Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, former national champion B Adhiban, SP Sethuraman, MR Lalit Babu, WGM Bhakti Kulkarni, and Padmini Rout — for the Arjuna Award. GM Abhijit Kunte’s name has been put forward for the Major Dhyanchand Lifetime Achievement award.
Viswanathan Anand was honoured with the inaugural Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 1992. Since then no chess player has received this honour.
Koneru has the best credentials among chess players to be considered for the award. The 34-year-old from Vijaywada, ranked No.3 in FIDE rankings, won the women’s World Rapid Chess Championship in December 2019 and recently qualified for the women’s World Championship qualifier in 2022. She played an important role as India and Russia shared the FIDE Online Olympiad last year.
Koneru has played in all major chess tournaments and won many titles. She has won the World Under-10, World Under-12, and Under-14 titles and the World Junior Chess Championship in 2001.Currently she has a rating of 2586, behind China’s Hou Yifan (2658) and Russian Aleksandra Goryachkina (2596).
Gujrathi is the third highest ranked Indian chess player in the Open category after Anand (15) and P Harikrishna (21). He has risen rapidly in the rankings in the last few years and maintained a rating of 2700-plus.