Harika: I’m confused why there is huge void in men’s and women’s chess in India

Grandmaster Harika Dronavalli is confused by the huge “void” in men’s and women’s chess in India and hopes the situation improves as there are several youngsters with potential in the country.

Published : Jun 29, 2023 17:05 IST , New Delhi - 3 MINS READ

Grandmaster Harika Dronavalli in action.
Grandmaster Harika Dronavalli in action. | Photo Credit: PTI

Grandmaster Harika Dronavalli in action. | Photo Credit: PTI

Grandmaster Harika Dronavalli is confused by the huge “void” in men’s and women’s chess in India and hopes the situation improves as there are several youngsters with potential in the country.

Harika, the three-time women’s World Championship bronze medallist and winner of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix, has been the flag-bearer of women’s chess in the country along with veteran Koneru Humpy, the Asian Games gold medallist.

Together, they have won the most trophies and accolades for the country and are currently also teammates in the Global Chess League (GCL) side upGrad Mumba Masters.

While the likes of young Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, Arjun Erigaisi and D Gukesh have been creating waves among men and defeating several big names including five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen, the women’s scene in the country is far from encouraging.

READ | GM’s Koneru Humpy, Hou Yifan bat for more tournaments like Global Chess League for women

“This (gap between men’s and women’s chess) even I don’t know, I am confused because a lot of young boys are coming up but girls... there is a huge void. But there are a few youngsters who are promising and coming up now, which is good. But I feel there is much more potential for more (women) players to come up,” Harika, the 2010 Asian Games bronze medallist, told PTI in a virtual interaction on Thursday.

“Frankly, I don’t know the exact reason... I think things will get better,” GM Humpy, the double Asian Games gold medallist, recently created a flutter, saying she is not sure about competing at this year’s Asiad in Guangzhou, China due to Covid-related reservations, but Harika clarified that her senior counterpart had “no issue” taking part in the quadrennial continental showpiece.

Humpy had told PTI on the sidelines of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix in April that, “Because of China, I’m not sure I’ll participate. Probably I’ll be deciding in June or July. (It’s) because of COVID, what else could be the reason (not) to go to China.” However, Harika said Humpy will compete.

“I think there is a bit of confusion. She (Humpy) didn’t say she is not competing. She said is thinking about it because of the situation (in China). I think she (has) decided to play, so there is no issue.” Harika says there was a lot of comparison being drawn between the country’s two Grandmasters -- herself and Humpy -- at one time, which she feels was unwarranted.

“There was a lot of comparisons drawn between us since beginning for some reason because we were competing on top. But now we are just two mothers trying to handle both life and career and we can relate to it and we are good friends in tournaments. It’s not that we are besties who will speak every day, but we are good friends and look for each other in tournaments,” she said.

Harika hopes the GCL continues to grow big with more teams joining the league in future.

“GCL is definitely very good news for chess players. We needed this big platform and it’s working really well and I hope it gets bigger and bigger in the coming years. It will bring more youngsters into the mainstream.” However, she is not in favour of more such leagues coming up in other parts of the world as it will bring down the importance of the unique format, where every team comprises men, women and young players.

“Actually, in chess, we have many other leagues but not of this level. But every country does have leagues. Those are different and this (GCL) is definitely special. It’s massive. If you do more (events like GCL), it won’t have that importance, right,” she averred.

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