Harikrishna: 'India will field its strongest-ever team for the Olympiad'

The former world junior chess champion says the presence of three Indians with an ELO rating of 2700-plus should make the team a formidable combination.

GM P. Harikrishna with his wife and former Serbian chess player Nadezda Stojanovic in Hyderabad on Tuesday.   -  V.V. Subrahmanyam

India will field the strongest-ever team in the Olympiad this September, says GM P. Harikrishna.

The former world junior chess champion, who recently married Serbian chess player Nadezda Stojanovic, says the presence of three Indians with an ELO rating of 2700-plus should make the team a formidable combination.

“We have a one-week camp in Delhi from March 16 before the players disperse for their respective tournaments. It should help us understand each other better as it opens up the communication channels to know what exactly we need to improve before the Olympiad,” says Hari in an exclusive interview with Sportstar on Tuesday. “We will work on some innovative openings and endings and definitely try out with some blitz games too,” he said.

“We have improved over the years in the big league, beat some of the top players consistently. But, again, it is the unpredictability of any Olympiad which makes it all the more challenging,” says the 31-year-old.

“A lot depends on the kind of pairings we get especially in the final rounds,” he says hoping that the Indian team, which includes former World champion Viswanathan Anand, Vidit Gujarathi, K. Sasikiran, himself and two other players who might make it depending on the rankings, would be seeded either fourth or fifth at the Olympiad.

Hari reminded that he was amongst the top 10 in January 2017 but slipped out later because of one odd bad game or the other in some of the major events. “One such bad loss would nullify all the good work you do right through the event. So, I am essentially trying to be more consistent right through,” says the World No. 26, who will be featuring in his eighth Olympiad.

“Well, when it comes to future goals, the immediate target is to qualify for the Candidates Cycle which begins next year with the Grand Prix and the World Cups. With the change in the format, it is all the more exciting,” he said. “Obviously, the last round losses cost me dearly. That I am keen to avoid in future,” he added.

Questioned about the role of his wife, a smiling Hari made it clear that they would not sit across the 64 squares on the chess board but that she would be helping him in pooling all the info about the games of the opponents he should be lined up.