Grandmaster P. Harikrishna ready for million-dollar chess tour

Grandmaster P. Harikrishna will debut in the Chess Tour by joining the elite players in the $150,000 Chessable Masters beginning over this weekend.

P. Harikrishna is ranked 51st in rapid and 65th in blitz ratings.   -  FIDE

Globally, the phases of lockdowns have impacted sportspersons in varying degrees across disciplines. In some parts of the world, the professional footballers and golfers are back in competition. Some others, like shooters and badminton players, have started serious training. Those in contact sports like wrestling, boxing etc. are still waiting for a better tomorrow.

Perhaps, chess remains the one to gain substantially since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. The world’s elite is busy playing online in the million-dollar Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour. The lesser players have found a steep rise in cash-money competitions on various chess servers to keep them going.

Grandmaster P. Harikrishna is among the very few lucky ones to return to the world’s toughest Tour. Having played twice in the now-cancelled Grand Chess Tour, Hari will debut in the Chess Tour by joining the elite players in the $150,000 Chessable Masters beginning over this weekend.

Speaking from Prague, Hari opened up to Sportstar. “Playing in Chess Tour is great. For me, the most important thing is to play against the best players and win against them. This is an opportunity to test my skills and to do well against the best. I’m glad I got this opportunity. And yes, I’m working to show my best.” Hari, runner-up in Sharjah online event this week, realises that online chess, with shorter time-controls, poses a different set of challenges and is working on the specifics.

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“It’s quite different playing online and over-the-board. So, I have been practicing a lot with my wife and friends to play online to see how it functions. Also, the opening part will be different for the shorter time-control in comparison to the classical time-control.” Hari strikes a positive note when he looks at how chess has gained in spite of the pandemic.

“Of course, like every other sport, cancellations or postponements of events have taken place in chess, be it open or round-robin events, especially the Candidates tournament. These days, events are happening online, but at least they are taking place and fans can see some live action online, unlike other sports. Therefore, I can say to some certain extent, chess players are lucky in that aspect.

“Many top-level tournaments are being played as part of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour. You can also watch some fun events on various chess websites where celebrities and various other sports stars are playing chess. When it comes to competitive, over-the-board chess, it is clear that we need to wait and see when the situation improves.” Though impressed by the rising number of online followers for chess, Hari believes online and over-the-board competitions can coexist.

“I hope they coexist rather than the online events taking from the over-the-board action. I understand, with all the comforts involved in online events, any organiser can say, ‘Okay, why do I need to work so much in organizing an over-the-board event, check various logistical details, etc, when I can just do it online!’ Yet they are different.

“So it’s not just about prizes and costs. Playing tournaments is also more like a social thing, where you meet people, interact, feel the tension between the players while playing and of course the spectators.”

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