In exalted company

Dronavalli Harika...flying high.-PHOTO: MD.YOUSUF

Guntur-born Dronavalli Harika, apparently inspired by the achievements of Koneru Humpy and Pentyala Harikrishna, has attained a stature of her own by realising one of her two dreams, winning the coveted men's GM title. Her other dream is to be a world champion. Over V. V. Subrahmanyam.

Dronavalli Harika is only the second Indian woman to win the men's Grandmaster title after Koneru Humpy.

By strange coincidence, these two champion chess players hail from the same belt — Krishna-Guntur region in Andhra Pradesh — which also saw the birth of another familiar name Pentyala Harikrishna.

So it was no wonder that the Guntur-born Harika, apparently inspired by the achievements of the other two, has attained a stature of her own by realising one of her two dreams — winning the GM title. The other is to be a world champion.

The 20-year-old Harika, sponsored by Airports Authority of India and Lakshya, is obviously relieved having achieved this feat. “It is a great feeling to join some of the big names in chess in this category,” says Harika. “Definitely, it means a lot. Enhanced prestige in the chess circles as now people tend to look at you in awe when you move around in the competition hall,” says a smiling Harika.

“No doubt, this will also mean greater responsibility and bigger expectations. But, we chess players have this habit of working without being noticed for hours together to achieve our goals. And, I believe that I belong to that category too,” says Harika.

“Well, in the space of two months I won the Asian individual women's title and this GM title. This gives me a great sense of satisfaction,” says the unassuming 2008 World junior champion.

“Honestly, I don't want to be compared with anyone else. Each player has a different style and has to approach the given challenges in a different way. Chess is such a complicated sport that you have to keep finding novel ways after every game because of the intensity of the preparations of the opponents with all the technological advances to help them,” explains Harika.

“Now, I should stay focused on the biggest challenge of my life — to become a world champion next year,” the Business Management student says.

“Right now, I am not thinking of any other trainer other than my coach N. V. S. Ramaraju, who along with my parents (Ramesh and Suvarna), has been a great source of strength in moments of agony and ecstasy,” says the silent performer of Indian women's chess.

In a sport which has seen Chinese girl Yifan Hou become the youngest ever world champion at the age of 16 after becoming the youngest player to compete at the age of 12 in a world championship earlier, Harika feels that it has been a pretty long wait to win the coveted GM men's title.

“Yes, I missed the final norm quite a few times. But, anyway, I take pride in finally achieving it rather than ponder what happened in the past. Let me enjoy this wonderful moment,” she concludes.