Harika realises a dream

DRONAVALLI HARIKA had the courage to put her reputation on the line, playing in the World under-14 girls' championship at Heraklio, Greece, recently.

MANUEL AARON

DRONAVALLI HARIKA had the courage to put her reputation on the line, playing in the World under-14 girls' championship at Heraklio, Greece, recently. As a Woman Grandmaster she was expected to win this category. Had she failed, it would have been a terrible blow.

Dronavalli Harika, the winner of the World Youth Under-14 girls' title at Heraklio, with the cup. — Pic. V. RAJU-

Harika was pursuing her dream of winning a gold medal in this Festival. Last year, the gold had eluded her at Halkidiky, another Greek city. She did not even merit a bronze medal. In these festivals for age-limited world championships she had won the silver medal twice and the bronze once in the under-10 and under-12 girls' events. But never the gold. This time, it was different. She won the World under-14 girls' championship after playing carefully and solidly all the way.

And in the boys' under-12 category, the ONGC-sponsored Parimarjan Negi of Delhi won the bronze medal for India. He had won the Asian under-10 in 2002 and is the current Indian sub-junior champion. He started off well winning his first six games on the trot. Then he lost his seventh round game and was held to draws in the eighth and 10th rounds. He scored 9/11 and was half a point behind the top two.

Apart from Harika and Negi, two others — J. Mohana Priya in the under-10 girls and N. Srinath in the under-10 boys — did well and led at the start. Mohana Priya and Srinath started with scores of 5/5 and 4/4 respectively before losing momentum. Srinath, sponsored by United India Insurance, eventually finished sixth and won a cup at the closing ceremony.

If Srinath and Priya had raised India's hopes early, Mary-Ann Gomes in the under-16 girls and Dasari Sai Srinivas in the under-14 boys had anxious moments as the festival neared its end. Had she won her last round game Mary-Ann would have bagged a silver medal and a draw would have still fetched her the bronze. But she lost and finished fifth. With the black pieces Sai needed a last round victory against IM Yuriy Kuzubov of Ukraine to take the bronze. He came close to winning but drew and finished fifth. At the end he was only half a point behind the world champion and two others who tied with him.

Surprisingly, in the under-18 girls, though India was never close to a gold medal both the players, N. Vinuthna and M. Rajadarshini, played so well that they earned 11-game Woman International Master norms. This section was the most fiercely fought event as no less than six players tied for the first place with eight points each. Vinuthna finished only one point behind them. She played the most spectacular game by any Indian in the festival, sacrificing knights and bishops in the eighth round to beat the Dutch Woman International Master Bianca Muhren in 26 moves. For Vinuthna, this is her second norm. Her first came from the Asian under-18 girls' gold, which she won at Teheran earlier this year.

Arun Prasad could have made an 11-game IM norm in the boys' under-16 category. But he ruined his chances by losing in the final round. Deep Sengupta, also in the under-16, could not re-create the magic that swept him to the World under-12 title in 2000.

This festival was good for India as all the players finished in the top half, most of them just outside the winners' circle and two of them returned with medals.

As usual the Georgians did well here though the Poles topped the gold medal winners' list. In the under-10 girls, Mary Arabitze of Georgia ran through the opposition winning all her games to score 11/11.

Of the 10 gold medals on offer, three went to Poland, two each to China and Georgia and one each to India, Israel and Russia. China won more medals than India, though it did not compete in all categories. There were no Chinese players in the U-16 and U-18 girls' events and the U-18 boys' section. But there were seven Chinese players in the U-10 boys, four in the U-12 boys and three in the U-10 girls. In the U-10 boys China took the gold and bronze besides a seventh place, whereas in the U-12 boys, only Parimarjan Negi prevented them from making a clean sweep of the first four places.

The Indians arrived a day ahead of the official arrival date and left a day after the scheduled departure. This was because there were no convenient flights corresponding with the festival's dates, which proved to be a big financial strain to the participants. There were 27 Indian players and 21 accompanying persons in the festival. But there were many participants of Indian origin representing other countries such as the U.S., Canada, Ireland, England, Kenya, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

Many of the Indian players were accompanied by their parents and they carried electric stoves. Unwilling to eat the western food provided by the sponsors, Hotel Creta Maris, most of the Indians had their meals cooked in their rooms by their parents or guardians. But they came to the restaurant, which had a panoramic view of the Mediterranean, for French fries, ice cream and cakes.

The Chief Arbiter for the ladies' section, Sotiris Logothetis and Mastrokoukos were the main organisers. Next year, the 20th edition of this festival would be held in Belfort, France, from July 18 to August 1, 2005.

The category-wise scores of World champions and Indian players

Girls' U-10: 1. WFM Mary Arabitze (Geo) 11; 2-3. Nino Anakidze (Geo) and Alexandra Lach (Pol) 8.5; 4. Xu Huahua (Chn) 8; J. Mohana Priya, Gutta Sirisha 7; Tejeswini Reddy 6.5. 84 players.

Girls' U-12: 1. Klaudia Kulon (Pol) 9.5; 2. Anastasia Bodnaruk (Rus) 8.5; 8. G. Madanasri 7.5; 12. P. Lakshmi Sahithi 7; 29 Devangi Patankar 6. 84 players.

Girls' U-14: 1-2. D. Harika (Ind), Anna Muzychuk (Slo) 9 each; 9. K. Lakshmi Praneetha 7.5; 22. N. Anjanaa Sowjanyaa 6.5; 38. Kajri Choksi 6. 93 players.

Girls' U-16: 1. Bela Khotenashvili (Geo) 9.5; 2. Joanna Majdan (Pol) 9; 3-5. Maka Purtseladze (Geo), Atousha Pourkashiyan (Iran), Mary-Ann Gomes (Ind) 8 each; 81 players.

Girls' U-18: 1-6. WIM Jolanta Zawadzka (Pol), IM Marie Sebag (Fra), WIM Nataliya Hryhorenko (Ukr), Polina Malysheva and Marina Guseva (both Rus), WGM Natalia Sdebskaja (Ukr) 8 each; 11. N. Vinutna 7; 24. M. Rajadarshini 6. 68 players.

Boys' U-10: 1-4. Yu Yangyi (Chn), Joules Moussard (Fra), WFM Hou Yifan (Chn), Raymond Song (Aus) 9; 5-9. Dariusz (Pol), N. Srinath (Ind), Zhang Haosu, Liu Shanglei (both Chn), Nodar Lortkipanidze (Geo) 8 each; 14. Prasanna Rao 7.5, 46-47 G. Madhukiran and K. Sanjoy Singh 6. 104 players.

Boys' U-12: 1-2. Zhao Nan, Ding Liren (both Chn) 9.5; 3. Parimarjan Negi 9; 4. Liu Qingnan (Chn) 8.5; 26-27. Y. Sandeep and S. Ravi Teja 6.5 each. 122 players.

Boys' U-14: 1-3. IMs Ildar Kairullin (Rus), Yuriy Kuzubov (Ukr) and Dmitry Andreikin (Rus) 8.5; 4-8. Daniel Ludwig, D. Sai Srinivas, Qiu Tong (Chn), Anton Klimov and Maxim Matlakov (both Rus) 8; 79. Sankalp Modwal 5; 82. Sanchit Chauhan 5. 123 players.

Boys' U-16: 1. Maxim Rodshtein (Isr) 8.5; 23-24. S. Arun Prasad, Deep Sengupta 6.5; 29 G. Rohit 6.5. 107 players.

Boys' U-18: 1. IM Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Pol) 9; 44. K. Nikhilesh Kumar 5.5. 86 players.