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In Conversation With Harika Dronavalli

Nandini R

Dronavalli Harika is making all the right moves, at the right time and at the right places.

The first-year management student from Guntur, the tobacco capital of Andhra Pradesh, is currently enjoying an envious status in chess circles across the globe.

Right from the formative years, she has proven beyond doubt that she belongs to the top echelons of the board game.

Blessed with an overwhelming mastery over the 64square pieces,20-year-old Harika is on cloud nine. Her exploits have been out of the ordinary since the time she took to the game as an unassuming girl from a middle class family.

She is hogging global attention because her conquests have been something that calls for national celebration. Her rise has been phenomenal having achieved several firsts that place her only second to state-mate Koneru Humpy.

Harika became the country’s second woman chess player to achieve the Men Grandmaster norm. Not ironically, this rare band comprises of just about twenty women members from across the globe.

Right now she is chasing two dreams, both of which require her to put that something extra for getting them translated into reality.

“I wish to be the world champion?” she announces with a confidence that borders on solidly ingrained self-will and adds, “ I have always wondered why no Indian woman has been able to become the world champion. I wish that Humpy gets to reach the summit when she plays her championship title clash next month. However, that will in no way undermine my own efforts for the same. I am hungry for the numero uno status. Hopefully, I will become one, in the not too distant future.”

No one has an iota of doubt that she is well on her way towards what is the biggest goal of any chess player, ambitious or otherwise.

She is pragmatic when asserting about the lack of patronization for chess in India and explains, “Unlike cricket or tennis, chess gets lesser support because one needs to understand the game besides having loads of patience to sit through a match. In that sense, the excitement that one looks at is absent in chess.”

Her cup is overflowing with coveted honors. Three World youth championship titles in 2004; under-14 and under-18 world titles and the 2008 World junior title have been blended with this year’s Asian Women's individual title and Asian women's individual title.

Harika, decorated with the Arjuna award in 2007, is keen that India wins a medal in team Olympiad. “I am sort of obsessed with this particular dream. I know India has the talent and players of proven caliber, who can be ruthlessly demonstrative against even the most dangerous opponents,” says the star with a smiling proudly.

Consistency comes naturally to Harika, who stunned the world when as a mere 12-yer-old she scalped former world champion Maya Chiburdanidze in the third round of the 2002 World Cup.

Today, she is rubbing shoulders with the best in the business.Knowingly or unknowingly, she is feared by her rivals across the board because this prodigious talent can account for any one at their own game.

That she is like any other girls her age is evidenced when she says,“Although I spend a lot of time on fine-tuning my middle and end game,my best relaxation comes from listening to music and watching shows on television. Movies are my favourite pastime.”

Needless to say, all eyes will be Harika when she next participates in international events. Having achieved everything else, she is now focusing on participation in club-level tournaments abroad.

According to Harika “You see getting to play in club events in China and European nations is worth the participation. More than anything else, they are tough propositions because the best of global contemporary vies for glory.

That, in a way, helps me to fine tune my game is her contention,” and continues,“I have to improve my middle and end games. That will strengthen my approach to the game.”

That’s it. The prodigal daughter is keeping tryst with destiny and successfully at that.

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