`I am feeling more confident now'

P.V. SIVAKUMAR

HARIKRISHNA is enjoying the advantage of training under Elizbar Ubilava (former trainer of Viswanathan Anand). Now, he has decided to engage Ubilava for 12 months to improve his game and become a better all-round player. "I will discuss the modalities with him very soon," Harikrishna told The Sportstar.

Harikrishna attributes his success in the Sanjin Cup in China in July to the month-long coaching he had with Ubilava. "Arguably, it was my career-best performance and it could not have come at a more appropriate time," he says.

What exactly did he gain? "The openings repertoire has improved a lot. More than that, I think my whole attitude towards the sport has changed. I am feeling more confident and the convincing manner in which I won the Sanjin Cup with fewer number of draws, bears testimony to this fact," the 19-year-old from Hyderabad said. "I definitely have a better level of understanding at this grade now thanks to Ubilava," he added.

Incidentally, one of the first things, which the youngster did on returning home, was to call up his coach in Spain and check whether he had analysed his games in the tournament in China. "He was pretty happy with the way I played," said Harikrishna, who is now being sponsored by Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL).

Hari is not in a mood to relax after the Sanjin Cup victory and is looking for more success. "It is imperative to ensure a winning streak at the highest level. Next, I will compete in the Mainz tournament where I will take part both in the rapid and the Swiss random events in which about 40 Grandmasters are expected to compete," Harikrishna, with an Elo rating of 2650, said.

He will also take part in the German league featuring some of the big names of the sport with the primary target of breaking into the 2700-plus category. He will also be playing in the Swiss random event there.

"This is a unique event which throws up novelties on every move. You just cannot go by the computer preparations. It should help me a lot in mastering the art of coping with novelties against much tougher opponents in the coming months," remarked Harikrishna.

He is grateful while acknowledging the support of GAIL. "I must say their contribution has come at the most decisive phase of my career. Just when I was despondent about not finding any sponsors (after the contract with Wipro was terminated) GAIL's gesture was God-sent. In fact, I feel that my Sanjin Cup win should also be a perfect gift to them as it is the first big achievement under their sponsorship."

One person whom Harikrishna badly misses now is his late grandfather K. Ranga Rao, who introduced him to chess at the age of four in Prathipadu village in Guntur district.

"His void cannot be filled easily. And his influence on my career cannot be described in words. I dedicate this victory to him for all the pains he took in guiding my destiny for nearly 13 years," said a pensive Harikrishna.

"I think the best tribute I can pay to him is by trying to win the World championship one day," he added.

Anand feels that Koneru Humpy and Harikrishna are India's future world champions. And a beaming Harikrishna is thankful to his childhood hero, whom he emulated to become the second Indian to win the World junior championship. Hari now looks for Anand's moral support in his future endeavours.