Harikrishna’s feat

Like tennis, football and other sports played in every corner of the globe, chess is extremely competitive at the highest level. In the history of this ancient sport, which was born in India, only one Indian had ever made it to the top 20 — until August 1 that is.

Now Pendyala Harikrishna (above), ranked World No. 17, has joined Viswanathan Anand, ranked No. 2, in that elite list, as per the latest rankings released by FIDE, the world governing body of chess.

The 29-year-old’s latest achievement is further proof that he is the most gifted player India has produced since Anand, a five-time World champion, who just refuses to slow down even at the age of 45. Like the genial genius from Chennai, Harikrishna was also a child prodigy.

In 2001, at the age of 15, Harikrishna became India’s youngest Grandmaster, breaking the record of Anand. Like Anand, he too won the prestigious World junior championship, in 2004.

It would be unfair to Harikrishna though to stretch the comparison with Anand any further. Anand, like Bobby Fischer, is a legend who inspired a generation.

Thanks to his meteoric rise in international chess, Anand had received invitations regularly to play in the world’s elite tournaments. He made excellent use of those opportunities to climb up the ladder in world chess.

“I hope Harikrishna also gets his chances to play in prestigious international events,” says Grandmaster Pravin Thipsay. “He deserves that; to break into the world top 20 is no mean task.”

Harikrishna is delighted that he could do it though he hadn’t specifically been aiming for that. “In 2006, I was the World No. 25 with a rating of 2680, but I put a lot of pressure on myself in my attempt to cross 2700,” he says. “However, that actually prolonged the wait.”

His current rating is 2740, his best ever. There are only 47 players who have crossed 2700 in FIDE’s current list.

“I want to improve my rating further; just maintaining your high rating is not enough,” he says. “A player should always try to grow in strength and that would reflect on his rating.”

P. K. Ajith Kumar