Eyeing the next rung

Pendyala Harikrishna ...making the right moves.-

Pendyala Harikrishna hopes to break into the Elite Group of Super Grandmasters, which now has the illustrious Viswanathan Anand and Krishnan Sasikiran from India. V. V. Subrahmanyam takes stock.

Pendyala Harikrishna hopes to break into the Elite Group of Super Grandmasters, which now has the illustrious Viswanathan Anand and Krishnan Sasikiran from India .

The champion of 64 squares from Hyderabad was confident of realising his first goal in the New Year even as he was preparing for the prestigious Corus International tournament in Netherlands later this month.

“I don't think it is an impossible task, especially if you consider the way I have been preparing with Ganguly (GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly, his close friend),” says the 25-year-old former World junior champion with a current ELO rating of 2665. In fact, Ganguly was in Hyderabad for rigorous preparations with Harikrishna.

“Definitely, when I look back at 2011, I do feel I could have achieved a lot more than winning the Asian championship title and the third place in the World Open in Chicago,” says the unassuming Harikrishna, an officer with BPCL. “It is a dream which every chess player chases after reaching a certain stage. And, I am no different,” is his point when referring to the Super Grandmasters category.

Harikrishna also has an interesting revelation when he says that not long ago only 15 to 20 Super Grandmasters (above ELO 2700) were there. “But with the decision to reduce the floor rating from the previous 2000 to 1200 points, there are now 40 in this category,” he says with a big smile.

“Personally, I must confess that in the last three years I have had one or two real bad patches in lesser-rated tournaments and that has affected my rating to a large extent. This despite doing so well in the much bigger events featuring some of the best Grandmasters,” explains Harikrishna. “Right now, I am more conscious of this and try to avoid a repetition of simple errors during crucial phases of the games,” he added.

The fact that Harikrishna, whose ELO rating was 2690 in July 2011, is seeded fifth in the ‘B' category of the Corus Masters, which also features another Andhra player, Dronavalli Harika, is a tribute to his ability to stay in the big league.

“The Corus event has three categories — A for the Super Grandmasters, which also includes world champions (past and present), Group B and Group C. If you win your Group you will be promoted to the next one in the next edition. It is going to be really tough and I hope to come up with a special performance to start the New Year in style,” says the champion player who is also enjoying his stint in the Spanish League with Solvay Club. The Club also has Harikrishna's one-time trainer, GM Elizabar Ubilava, in its ranks.

“I have no regrets when I look back. I am happy with what I have achieved though there is always scope to keep improving,” says Harikrishna. “Well, definitely there are high expectations. But again, it is not an easy sport out there. Things keep changing rapidly and you have to keep pace with them. I am trying my best to realise the biggest dream of all — to be a world champion,” he said to a query. “Exactly for this reason, I have been playing in the European League because it gives you a chance to play with the best in the business. You tend to learn so many new things,” he pointed out.