Viswanathan Anand, Pentala Harikrishna, Koneru Humpy, Abhijeet Gupta, Soumya Swaminathan, Dronavalli Harika, B Adhiban, SP Sethuraman — add to this list the name of Pune’s Aakanksha Hagawane as an Indian to win a World Chess Championship title. All of them have won world titles in age group and junior (under-21) competitions — Anand, the World Junior Champion in 1987, is the only one to go on to be crowned World Champion in senior category not once but five times. The list includes many more players who bagged world championship gold or other medals in lower age groups.
Aakanksha is the latest entrant into India’s World Champions’ club and she made it on Monday night by winning the girls’ under-16 title in the World Youth Chess Championships that concluded in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.
The 15-year-old Aakanksha, daughter of a wholesale vegetable seller from Pune, topped the girls’ U-16 section by bagging nine points from 11 games, finishing half-point ahead of Mobina Alinasab of Iran and Polina Shivalova of Russia — the Iranian girl taking silver ahead of the Russian on tiebreak. Aakanksha sealed the title by defeating Alicja Sliwicka of Poland with white pieces in the 11th and final round. Going into the final round, Aakanksha was tied on eight points with Dutch girl Anna-Maja Kazarian, but the latter lost to Iranian Mobina Alinasab, finishing fourth overall.