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Harika realises one of her dreams

Dronavalli Harika reached another significant milestone in her chess career by becoming only the second woman chess player from India to win the Grandmaster title in men's category when she drew with Anna Zatonskih of the United States in the Women's Grandmasters tournament in China on Saturday.

The Indian girl drew her final round game to finish second overall with 5.5 points, but more importantly crossed the crucial Elo 2600-mark to earn the coveted GM title in the men's section. Koneru Humpy is the only other Indian to have achieved this.

The 20-year-old Harika says one of her two dreams has finally been realised. “I always used to tell my friends and fellow players that I have two objectives — to be a Grandmaster in the men's category and to be the World champion. I feel relieved that one hurdle is crossed,” Harika told The Hindu from China.

Sentimental feat

“This is a very sentimental achievement for me. For, only last month I lost my grandfather (Krishna Rao) and I was in Guntur only for a day to attend the 11th day ceremony before leaving for the circuit. At the small gathering, I thought to myself that the best tribute to pay him was to achieve something special. Now, I think I have done my best and done what he had wanted for long,” the champion player from Andhra Pradesh said.

“It is a huge honour to be a men's GM considering that there are only about 25 of them in the world. And definitely, this is a huge motivation ahead of a demanding schedule next year,” says the reigning Asian women's champion.

“It is true that I have been waiting for this since 2007. I have been missing the GM norms very narrowly in many events. So, in that context, today I am really pleased after getting the final GM norm,” the former World junior champion said.

“I dedicate this achievement to my parents (Ramesh and Suvarna) and to my coach N.V.S. Ramaraju. They have been a source of great inspiration right through my career,” said Harika, sponsored by Airports Authority of India and Lakshya.

Reflecting on the big events ahead, Harika said she had received an invitation to play in the prestigious Corus championship besides other majors in the next few months.

“With the World championship and the Olympiad ahead, I am just hoping everything will fall in place,” said the winner of three World youth titles.

Silent performer

“She is a silent performer of Indian chess. Has abundant talent and is one of the strongest contenders to be a World champion,” says IM Lanka Ravi, who is a close follower of Harika and Humpy's careers.

“Now the big dream needs to be chased — to be a World champion. I am aware that it is not going to be easy but I can tell you that it is the ultimate target for me as I prepare for the Worlds next year with all seriousness,” signed off Harika.

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 9:18:36 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/harika-realises-one-of-her-dreams/article2287994.ece