Following the footsteps of Judit Polgar

by ChessBase
2/3/2005 – At the Asian Junior Girls chess Championship at Bikaner, a 14-year-old Indian girl walked away with the silver medal. Harika Dronavalli, India's new mega-talent, has won more titles than anyone else in her age group. Chess arbiter and reporter Manmohan Harsh has interviewed her and describes her young chess career.

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“I dream to follow the footsteps of Judit Polgar”

Interview with Dronavalli Harika of India by M. Manmohan Harsh

World under-14 champion and Asia’s youngest women Grandmaster D. Harika dreams to follow the footsteps of Hungarian GM Judit Polgar. Like Judit, she want to challenge men’s dominance on her own. Harika, who is a tenth standard student at Shri Venkateshwara Bal Kuter in Gntur (Anhdra Pradesh) brought laurels to her country, when she won the world U-14 girls championship in Greece last year.

Harika learned the moves of the game from her father Ramesh at the age of eight. In a span of five years she has come a long way as far as her achievement at National & International level are concerned.

Four-year-old Harika with her parents in 1995

Harika, who turned fourteen on January 11, 2005, looks like a veteran of many battles. In India, state of Tamilnadu has produced many strong players, including world no. 2 GM Viswanathan Anand, the torchbearer of Indian chess and one of the greatest chess players in the history of game.

Tamilnadu is considered the fort of Indian chess, but in the recent past, Andhra Pradesh players are making waves. After GM Harikrishna (World Junior Champion-2004) and WGM Koneru Humpy, Dronavalli Harika is the generation next from Andra Pradesh. This talented girl has got immense potential to break new barrier in times to come.

Harika remains totally focused on her games during tournament. Her gesture and appearance over 64 squares give you the impression of a true champion in making. While concentrating on her game, she likes to sip the ‘Mirinda’ her favorite cold drink few times. Otherwise while calculating her next moves or judging her opponents strategies, she remains involved in the every moment.

After finishing the games, she often leaves tournament hall instantly, doesn’t like to move here and there to see other games in progress. This is a sign of seriousness, with which she appears in game. Harika is often accompanied by her grandmother, whose presence provides her emotional and mental support. When Harika plays her game her grandmother stays outside. She spends her time in offering prayers and reading spiritual books.”

When you ask about her games, Harika always gives you an analytical view, and is willing to discuss the position with you with authenticity. This chess prodigy is relaxed and comfortable during interviews. With a roll of her finger on her laptop she provided us with a list of her achievements.

Q. What were your expectations before this tournament? Are you satisfied with your performance?

Harika: I had the plans of experimenting my opening preparation and I am satisfied with the implementation. Due to loss against champion, Hoang Thi Bao Tram in fourth round, I missed the gold medal here but despite this I played good chess. Against Tram, I had a good encounter but in the time pressure I made some mistake to suffer defeat.

Q. Do you see any change in your attitude or approach to the game after becoming world champion?

Harika: I have become more confident more serious about my goals. I have started improving my openings repertoire so I can prepare myself for Grandmaster (GM) title. Nowadays, I found my concentration level very high and perhaps I am involved with game to a new depth.

Q. With the new identity as WGM or World U-14 champion or having a celebrity status, do you feel pressurized?

Harika: Up to an extent, I have got the feeling like world champion or WGM, it’s a different kind of experience which motivates me to sail new peaks. As far as pressure is concerned, there is nothing at all.

Q. After winning the World U-14 title at Elista, you were expected to participate in World Junior at Calicut (Khozhikode), your name was also figured in players list initially?

With her mother and sister in a park

Harika: I wanted to have a break, so I decided not to take part in world juniors. I relaxed and prepared for up coming tournaments.

Q. Do you adopt different strategies/tactics while playing against men (boys) and women (girls)?

Harika: Playing up to sub-junior level in girls, I can experiment with new openings, but among top girls I can’t enjoy such liberty because their openings repertoire is very strong. In comparison to boys, girl’s openings are very weak. I would like to cope with boys level in future with more hard work in this area.

With her first silver medal in U-10 world youth 2000

Q. What is your next goal and what kind of preparation procedure wares you following towards?

Harika: Certainly, I am eyeing for Grandmaster title now. I am equipped with all latest technology. I have a laptop and latest versions of ChessBase and Fritz. I prepare using these valuable aids. I do follow latest game analyze them in the direction of my coach N.V.S. Raju. That’s the way I plan to make headways.

Q. What are your other requirements, I mean the need of outside support so you can achieve your goal with ease?

Harika: I am badly in need of a sponsor who can bear my expenses of International appearances. To achieve my goals, I will have to take part in many international competitions, if someone from corporate world comes forward to help me, I can move ahead with ease.

Harika vs Anna Muzychuk at the Girl's Under 14 championship

Q. You’re third world champion from Andhra Pradesh, After P. Harikrishna (U-10 world champion, 1996, now world junior champion) and Koneru Humpy (World U-10 champion, 1997). Did you take/receive any inspiration from their feats?

Harika: When they got the success, I was just a kid. I had not started playing chess. I was just playing at home. I got interested in game with an inspiration from father, who played chess at University level.

Q. Tell me about your favorite openings?

Harika: Playing white I like to start with Nf3 and ready to face the conversion in English opening, Sicilian Defense or what shape it take place. From the opposite side of the board if it is C4 I go for English opening. Against d-4, I adopt Grunfeld defense and if my opponent go for King Pawn (e4), I reply with Sicilian Defense.

Q. Your memorable tournament win and most remembered games of career?

Harika: Winning the World U-14 title, a Silver medal in Asian Women Championship and my triumph in National ‘B’ Championship are the most memorable. At the Hyderabad (India) world cup I beat former women world champion Maya Chiburdanidze in Kings Indian Defense game. That was one of my finest. At the Asian Women Championship I defeated Chinese Zhao Xue, who won the Gold on third board at Chess Olympiad. In the same tourney I got the better of three other Chinese players.

Q. What is your ambition or the dream?

Harika: I want to become a Grandmaster first then I dream to follow the footsteps of Judit Polgar & challenge the men’s superiority over 64 squares.

Q. What are your plans in 2005?

Harika: I will be trying my best to move closer to GM title. I will participate in many tournaments but my main aim will be to snatch another world title in world youth chess festival, scheduled to be held in July at Paris.

Fact File

  • Full name: Dronavalli Harika
  • Date of birth: January 12, 1991
  • Birth place: Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India.
  • Family members: father Ramesh, mother Swarna, older sister Anusha
  • Coach: N.V.S. Raju
  • School: tenth standard student at Shri Venkatehware Bal Kuter, Guntur.
  • Elo ratings: 2391
  • Titles: WGM, IM and WIM

Highlights of Harika's Career

  1. Winner; Asian U-10 (Girls) at Bikaner (Rajasthan) in 2002. Also won the U-18 title in Asian Open Chess Championship in 2002 at Bikaner.
  2. Bronze medal, World Youth Chess Festival (U-12, Girls) at Greece in 2002
  3. In the World Cup Chess at Hyderabad in 2002 she defeated former women world champion Maya Chidurdanidze.
  4. Became youngest women International Master in Asia at 12 yrs.
    (i) First WIM Norma from Asian Youth Championship at Tehran 2002
    (ii) Second WIM Norm Women National ‘A’ (India’s premier national championship) in 2002.
    (iii) Third WIM norm from world Junior Championship in 2002 held at Goa (India)
  5. Won the board prize (Gold medal) on fourth board in Asian Team championship at Jodhpur (Rajasthan) in 2003.
  6. Won Silver medal in women category at commonwealth chess championship in Mumbai (India) 2003. Here she got her maiden WGM & IM norms.
  7. Silver medal, Asian Women Championship at Calcutta (India) in 2003. Harika finished her second WGM & IM norms.
  8. Winner of Bronze medal in U-12 category of world youth chess festival at Greece in 2002.
  9. Became youngest WGM in Asia by winning the Commonwealth U-18 title at Mumbai (India) in 2004. In addition, she collected her third and final WGM norm.
  10. She got her third and final IM norm to become International Master at Chennai in International Open Tournament.
  11. At Mallorca in 36th chess Olympiad, she represented the Indian women team on third board and had the distinction of not losing any game in her maiden appearance. She collected 4½ points from 9 games, drawing all. Indian women team secured 9th position.
  12. She became world U-14 Girls Champion at Elista last year (2004).
  13. Won Silver medal in Asian Junior Girls championship at Bikaner, in December, 2004.

National Level: Besides winning many age group tourney highlights are:

  1. Champion Women National ‘B’ 2002 at Pune (Maharastra), a qualifying tournament for National ‘A’ championship.
  2. Winner U-20 National Girls Championship at Delhi in 2002.
  3. Surprised everyone by securing third place among top men rivals in National ‘B’ (Men) championship at Vijaywada in 2004. Because of this she qualified for Men’s National ‘A’ championship India’s highest-level tournament.
  4. At Vishakhapatnam in her maiden appearance in National ‘A’ just before the Asian Junior she locked horns with top men players. She finished 16th leaving behind two IM’s and a FM.
Man Mohan Harsh is a national Chess Arbiter and the Sports Press Representative. He has covered the Asian Junior Boys & Girls Chess Championship (Bikaner, December 2004) for The Hindustan Times and covered many national and international sports events for Indian newspapers. Harsh is currently working as mathematics teacher in the Govt. Upper Primary School, Karnisar Bhatiyan.


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