During her sterling chess career, D. Harika has taken countless decisions over the board that have brought her joy and glory. In the words of the three-time women's World championship bronze-medallist, "Chess means more to me than anyone can ever imagine. What would I do without chess in my life? ”
With such a strong connection with the game, this Hyderabad-based Padmashri recently took the biggest off-the-board but chess-related decision. Expecting her first child in August, Harika chose to be part of India's top women's team for the upcoming Chess Olympiad beginning at Mahabalipuram on July 29.
“The baby is due late in August and I understand I’m cutting it too fine. I always believe in doing what is in my control. I think the decision has much to do with my doctor, who has allowed me to go ahead. Karteek, my husband, and family stand firmly behind my decision. I am taking every precaution that I possibly can and following all directions of the doctor.
“Moreover, the All India Chess Federation (AICF) secretary Mr. Bharat Singh Chauhan and our team coach Grandmaster Abhijit Kunte have gone out of their way to extend all help. They offered to accommodate my family members, my doctor, nurse or any person I asked for. What's more, an ambulance will be parked at the hotel, 24x7, to meet any contingency. My family and I are truly touched by the generosity of Bharat Uncle and Abhijit Dada.”
On his part, Chauhan says, “Harika is one of the finest ambassadors of Indian chess. This is the least we could offer to help her take a call (on her participation). I am sure, Harika’s decision to play and her
presence will have a very positive impact on other members of the team.”
Kunte, Harika’s senior colleague from Indian Oil, states, “Harika is a team player and very crucial to our medal prospects. By deciding to be part of the team, she has hugely contributed to the spirit of the team. We will finalise our playing members on a match-to-match basis. Since we have a strong team, Harika can rest for the initial rounds and play only the crucial ones.”
Initially, the AICF had plans to provide Harika with a huge well-furnished villa where she could stay with her family and medical staff during the competition. But Harika has expressed her willingness to stay at the venue - Four-Points by Sheraton - to avoid any unnecessary travel during the 11-round event.
“Honestly, when the Chess Olympiad was awarded to India (in March), I was not sure of playing it. I was so disappointed that I could miss the Olympiad when it comes so close to home. Since 2004, I have not missed a single Olympiad, Asian Games, World team championship, Online Olympiad.
“I love playing for India in any team event. And the Olympiad is so special. Now I am very happy to be able to play.”
About her preparations, Harika said, “I devote about 5-6 hours a day to prepare. I practice with some stronger players to be competition-ready. I am in a good mental and physical state. I am looking forward to the Olympiad and meeting all my chess friends from around the world.”
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