D. Harika, for a change, is going to the Women’s World chess championship without a ‘must-win’ agenda. A two-time bronze medallist in the world’s premier championship, Harika has trained hard and looks eager to test her preparedness in Teheran from February 11 to March 3.
"It’s been two months since I played a competitive classical chess game. For one month, I trained for the World rapid and blitz championship. And for the past 40 days, I worked every single day. Previously, I never had the satisfaction of having put in enough.
"Every day, I felt, I’m wasting time and I should have prepared for at least one more hour. Now I tell myself I’m ready to give my best," Harika reflected on her approach.
Seeded four, Harika opens her campaign against Bangladesh’s Akter Liza Shamima. National champion Padmini Rout, the only other Indian in the 64-player knockout field, is due to take on Armenia’s Elina Danielian in the first two-game round.
The absence of World No. 1 Hou Yifan, K. Humpy and the 2015 World champion Mariya Muzychuk propelled World No. 7 Harika to the fourth spot in the seeding list.
“Strangely, we do not have any knockout tournament except the World championship. Two times, it worked out well. I’ve gained some experience about how it goes and how it feels. May be, I am more confident of my response to a certain situations,” she said.
On her immediate assignment, Harika said, “In terms of preparations, the difference comes in the tie-breakers, under different time formats. So we play training games in different time-controls.”
Harika sounded excited about the tie-break games that follow each round in case the classical games fail to break the deadlock.
"I love the excitement of the tie-break games. The heart beats so fast. I can tell you about the tie-break games (in the second round against USA’s Irina Krush in 2015). I wanted to win it so badly. The whole night I couldn’t sleep. I woke up at 4 am and started preparing.
"I knew, no matter how much I prepared, anything could happen in a 25-minute rapid game. I knew it was important to feel fresh before the games. I think, these games gave me more than just a win. It gave me stories that I can narrate and tell the people how I won.”
Looking at Harika’s stupendous show during 2016, expectations are high from her. But Harika seemed relaxed.
“First time (in 2012), no one expected me to do so well. But I had this vision that I wanted to win the title. The second time (in 2015), there were expectations and I still made it to the semifinals.
"I think, now I’ve passed the stage where I worried about how people would judge my performance. I know, I am giving my life for chess. I’ll do my best to win this time, for me and for those who back me. If I don’t win it this time, I’ll try harder next time. I know, one day, I’ll win the world title."
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