The next two years will be crucial for women’s chess in India – GM Harika Dronavalli
Since the covid-19 pandemic erupted in India last year, failures have been on the rise in the country. While all other sporting activities across the world have come to a halt due to the raging pandemic, people have taken to chess.
The strategy game has since grown by leaps and bounds in popularity in India and has also been supported by tremendous performances in various tournaments by the country’s top players.
One of those names that has stood out for India in chess with consistent performances recently is Grandmaster Harika Dronavalli.
A native of Andhra Pradesh state, Harika played a pivotal role in India’s campaign at the recently concluded FIDE Online Chess Olympics and Women’s World Championships, where the country won bronze and money. This was in addition to her finalists at the women’s speed chess championships earlier in July 2021.
Speaking to The Bridge, in an exclusive conversation, the 30-year-old shed light on her recent performances, the future of Indian chess and more.
On his recent performances
I don’t think there is any particular reason behind my consistency this year. I enjoyed my game much more, I start playing overboard after a long time. I’ve been working on improving my game for a long time, even online for that matter. So, probably everything just started to fall into place, I think. To be honest even I don’t know the exact reason and I don’t think it was a very amazing performance or anything, just very happy with the way things turned out for me.
On her experience leading the team at the Women’s World Championships
I’ve managed the team before and played on the top shelf, but it was different this time around because we won the silver medal. It is the first time that India has won a medal at the World Championships. It is certainly a great feeling when I think people will recognize our efforts now and our victory will go down in Indian sporting history. So very happy and proud of the efforts we have made in Sitges.
On the move from the Internet to the overboard
There is certainly a difference between playing overboard and playing online. The two are completely different challenges. The main challenge in over the board is the fact that you have to play with the mind of the opponent. You can analyze your opponent from their body language and then decide what you want to do. Online, on the other hand, is much more mechanical. You need to keep an eye on the internet while making sure you are quick in your movements and have a good grip on your mouse.
On chess considered an esport then pushed for the Olympics
As a player, I hope inclusion in the Olympics will happen soon. I know chess is complicated and difficult for viewers to understand, but it is also difficult for us when people are not really encouraging the sport. This could all change if FIDE somehow manages to make it part of the Olympics. It was part of the 2006 and 2010 Asian Games and will also be played in Hangzhou 2022, so you never know we might have it at the Olympics soon. It wouldn’t happen overnight, but as it does it can only be good for chess as a sport.
On mental preparation before a match or tournament
Preparation varies whether it is in-line versus on-set. Likewise, it varies when it comes to a knockout or a long tournament. In a long tournament, your main goal is to be at your best, and to keep your mind focused and relaxed for a long time, which will help you perform better in the end. Whereas on the contrary, in a knockout style event, it’s more about preparing your mind to give your all in every game and making sure you don’t even make a single mistake, as even a slight mistake can. make you lose your mind. Tournament. Likewise, when I played the sprint championships where I had to play match after match, my state of mind was different. Rather, it was about forgetting what happened in the last game and focusing on the present.
On the chess boom for a year and a half
Certainly, chess has experienced a very big boom. People were stuck at home because of the pandemic and they had no other sport to play than chess. This, coupled with all of those streamers making chess viewer friendly, meant more and more people were drawn to it. This is surely a good sign for someone like me and I am very excited to see this happen. And I really believe that this is just the beginning and that there is a lot more potential for chess to thrive in India.
On the future of women’s chess in India
In the boys, we have very strong juniors and we have a lot of them. The same can’t really be said for the girls section; I don’t know the reason but it is. We only have two female Grand Masters – Humpy and me. To say that it’s been 10 years since I became a GM and there hasn’t been one since; it’s disappointing. The next two years I think will be crucial for women’s chess in India as the sport is on the rise anyway and our performances at the World Championships will inspire more girls to play the sport. Even though we may have two or three good players in the next few years, it will do good for women’s chess in India.
About the Chess Super League
The Chess Super League, I thought, started out as a fun thing. But believe me, there are a lot of emotions attached to it, and the tournament hasn’t even started. What follows the event on social media is insane and I’m very happy to be a part of it. All the teams, I think, are at the same level of assessment and it’s going to be pretty exciting.