P. Harikrishna achieved the rare feat of being the highest-rated player from India (Elo 2,726) after five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand (Elo 2,785).

A delighted Harikrishna said it was a wonderful feeling to be the next best after the great Anand in an interview with The Hindu on his return home recently.

“For any chess player, this is never easy. Especially for Indians, given the fact that we have virtually no open category tournaments of this standard in the country wherein players of even 2,500-plus can hope to keep improving,” the 27-year-old said.

“The fact that I have not played in India after the official championship in 2004 is an indication of this.”

Harikrishna is presently busy playing in European leagues and is keen to make an impact in the next two big events — Asian blitz championship at Sharjah this weekend and the World blitz championship in Dubai in June.

Harikrishna has not made it to the World championship cycle yet, though he featured in four World Cups (knock-out format) with a third-round as his best performance.

“It is never easy for Indians to reach the Worlds cycle as the exposure to events with 2,600-plus is very little compared to the Europeans and the Russians,” the world No. 25 said.

“We badly need a structure in place to change things at the top. Honestly, there are quite a few events for players below Elo 2,000.

“The real problem is for those rated above Elo 2,550. It is not just enough if we host a World championship.

Hype and craze

“I have seen four World-level events in India and every time there is hype and craze for the sport.”

“But tell me how good we were in capitalising on this interest. Sponsors should have been tapped for big tournaments during these world events as once they are over the interest amongst the corporates too fades away quickly.”

Harikrishna reminded that there were four to five players in the top 100 in the year 2004 and now only three.

“Why? Because players don’t get big events in India and at the same time cannot afford to tour abroad.

“For instance, Parimarjan Negi lost 40 Elo points and slipped to 2,630 after losing a couple of games in the Nationals here. This is a major handicap for those ranked above 2,600.”

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