Grandmaster (GM) P. Harikrishna feels that the lockdowns and emergencies across the world may not mean much to a chess player for they normally prefer isolation to train but asserts once the situation improves, hopefully, it takes a lot of time for the sponsors to regroup and come back to host sporting events.
“Already, I came to know that many sponsors of not just chess but for other disciplines have suffered huge losses. With these lockdowns, it is not sure how many of them can recover and how quickly. Sports will be badly hit because of the impact on the economy,” says 33-year-old Harikrishna in an exclusive chat with ‘ Sportstar ’ from Prague (Czech Republic), where he has been staying since 2018 after getting married to Nadezda Stojanovic, the Serbian chess prodigy.
“Yes, we have to be optimistic about a dramatic improvement across the globe. But, again, not that easy given this Coronavirus had hit the world economy so badly,” feels India's third highest-rated player after Viswanathan Anand (2753) and Vidit Gujrathi (2726).
The soft-spoken former World junior champion also felt it was strange that the Candidates Chess tournament matches in Russia happened to be the only sporting event going on in the world, though it had to be cancelled subsequently half-way after seven rounds.
“In the first instance, I felt they should not have started it. It is not that we expect something worse will happen. But, the hints were coming on from across the world. Perhaps, the gravity was misunderstood,” he reasoned out.
“The fact is there were two Chinese players in the Candidates Matches and their families too would have been seriously worried about the developing situation. Well, if someone says that when the players didn’t have a problem, what is there to debate, then I have nothing to comment,” Harikrishna said insisting that the minimum responsibility was to ensure the virus didn't spread.
But, the Candidates Matches also presented the Hyderabadi a first-time experience of commentating for a website.
“In the last world championship I did comment but it was more of a summary of the day’s play. Here, I had to pick the game of the day and make an in-depth analysis. Honestly, I enjoyed it thoroughly,” World No. 27 said with a big smile.
“I am in touch with my game thanks to the technology available and my wife’s company (she is a chess player). But, frankly this is is not the time to think of any tournaments. Sport is not important at this critical juncture when the whole world is battling on the dreaded virus. I am sincerely praying that everything will be okay soon,” Hari said from Prague, what is now his 'second home'.
“Fortunately, with the authorities declaring National Emergency in Prague on March 15, the situation is not as bad it is in other countries. We are still going out for a walk but those who move without masks are fined,” he added.
Reflecting on what he missed the most, Hari, who has an ELO rating of 2719, says he is constantly in touch with his friends and family members across the world. “I interact with my parents daily and I am glad that the situation is not bad in India,” he signed off.