Confident Harika gears up for World Grand Prix

GM Dronavalli Harika, who was adjudged the best woman player in the Eurasian blitz championship, has derived confidence from her performance ahead of the Women's World Grand Prix in July.

Harika..."It is important to have the novelty factor in crunch situations to outwit the rivals."   -  Special Arrangement

GM Dronavalli Harika feels that her recent performance in the Eurasian Blitz championship, in which she was rated the best woman player, is the ideal morale-booster ahead of the World Grand Prix to be held in China from July 1.

“Though Grand Prix is the classical format and features the top 12 players in the world, in terms of confidence, the Eurasian show is something really special. Yes, the win in Hungary a week before this is more of a preparation for the China event,” Harika pointed out.

> Read: Harika best women's player in Kazakhstan blitz

Harika, who won the inaugural FIDE Online Women blitz championship last November featuring more than 300 players from across the world, is determined to keep improving in many critical areas. “You can’t say you are complete in any aspect of the game. Nowadays, by the click of the mouse, anyone can access the games of the best players over a period of time and prepare accordingly. So, it is important to have the novelty factor in crunch situations to outwit the rivals. This is what I will be really working on,” she remarked.

“Obviously, I don’t want to exert any pressure on myself by thinking about winning the Grand Prix title or anything like that. I just want to go there and give off my best. Yes, compared to the last edition in Iran when I was terribly tired after a 15-day long competitive circuit before that event and couldn’t do well, this time around I am in a much better frame of mind,” she says.

The 25-year-old Harika, who is mentored by her childhood coach N. V. S. Ramaraju and who shares some ideas with other leading players when abroad, insists that this is one of her best performances given the strong field including the presence of World No. 1 Hou Yifan.

'Pleased'

“Not very often I remember surging ahead of such strong players like Yifan in a major tournament like this. I am really pleased with the way I have played and hope to keep showing the desired consistency in the days to come,” says Harika. “I get to play only a couple of Blitz events in a year. In this context, I am really glad with my showing for I really wanted to do well and if not win at the start of the event,” she added.

The Hyderabadi is also delighted to re-enter the top 10 in the world rankings by virtue of recent performances in Europe, including the Zalakaroa International title in Hungary (with Yihan she tied with 12.5 points before emerging winner in the tie-break). Harika is now No. 10 in both classical and blitz formats.

“Well, when you play in a big event, these rankings don’t come into play. You have to be at your best to beat the challenges. But, what is important is that these sort of things do give that extra fillip in your pursuit of bigger goals,” she explains.

Harika, an unabashed admirer of Hungarian great Judith Polgar, laughs that she, like any sportsperson, is never satisfied with her achievements. “I need to keep improving every day. This is a highly competitive world. To be more specific, I need to focus more on my initiatives and middle-game perhaps,” she said.

Refusing to be drawn into a debate on where she rated the latest achievement, Harika says the World Cup bronze stands as a special for her.

Harika is known to shut herself away from the rest of the world (she has a very limited friends circle) when preparing for the major tournaments, except for the interactions with her childhood coach Rama Raju, Hari Anna (Pentyala Harikrishna) and Ganguly Bhai (Surya Sekhar Ganguly). “They have always been a great source of inspiration,” she says.

Harika has said that her biggest goal is to be a world champion. With the World Championship scheduled this year-end, the three-time Commonwealth champion is already in the preparatory mode to pull off a special performance.