Harika on chess, life and more

by Niklesh Kumar Jain
1/2/2015 – She wants to do her best in the upcoming Women’s World Championship and to enter the Top Five in the world rankings. She is one of the chess queens of India and one of the top players in women chess for quite some time now. Meet grandmaster Dronavalli Harika, who is famous in the chess world for the beautiful smile she always wears. Here is an illustrated interview.

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Harika first came into the limelight when she won the World Junior Chess Championship in 2008. Since last one month she has been extremely busy playing the crème de la crème of chess events. As the year 2015 begins, she granted this interview in which she discusses her chess successes, future plans and her New Year Resolutions!

Dronavalli Harika (2496) currently ranked number two in India and sixteenth in the world

Niklesh Jain: Who was your first chess teacher?

Dronavali Harika: My dad introduced me to chess and later on I worked with a few different local coaches. My first coach at the professional level was N.V.S Ramaraju, who guided me to my first national title.

Harika with her father and first coach: Mr. Ramesh

At what age did you decide to make chess your career? And why?

I made this decision at the age of nine, when I won a national championship and a medal at the World Youth Championship.

Harika with her father Ramesh and mother Swarna. As can be seen in the picture, it was
taken on June 12, 1995, when the little whiz kid was just four!

And here the nine-year-old Harika had already decided that chess was going to be her profession!

What role has your family played in helping you make a successful career?

The most important. At an age when I didn’t even know what chess was, nor its importance, they introduced me to the game and supported me all throughout.

With her grandmother and her sister

Whom do you credit with your success?

Credit goes to my parents, coach N.V.S. Rama Raju, my grandmother, my trainers and close friends who were with me at all times. The day I achieve my highest goal, I will specify each and every name who was a part of my success.

For Harika, her family has played a key role in where she is right now

What do you enjoy apart from chess?

I watch Indian movies, listen to Indian music, read books, comics and also indulge in cooking.

Who are your role models in chess and life?

Judit Polgar in chess. I really like the way she made her own place at the highest level in men. In life, I don't have a specific role model as I get inspired from many things from different people. I feel we can learn something good from most of the people around us.

Did you ever think of playing another sport?

Never. At least not at a professional level.

What are your plans for the World Championships in future?

Right now my major goal is to win World Women Championship, but at the same time I don't have a specific plan or time limit. I will work towards improving my game and I am sure one day I will win it.

Determined in her self-improvement. That’s what champions are made up of.

Is finding sponsorship a problem for chess players in India?

It’s difficult to say. When a player reaches a certain level in chess they have good scholarships and job offers, but at the same time chess has the potential to attain much bigger sponsorships and publicity.

Do you have any ideas to make chess more popular in India?

At present, I can only try and win more medals for India at high level events to make chess popular. Later on, in the future, I would like to open a Chess Academy and provide players with all the necessary facilities.

What kind of tips would you give to parents whose children have just started to play chess (especially for parents who have a girl)?

One most important tip I would like to share with my experience is that if a kid shows potential in chess, instead of wasting their time and age with all age group championships, parents should make them play in higher level events. Especially for girls, they should try and compete in boys groups more which will be useful in the long run.

With the top players of India: Surya Shekhar Ganguly (center) and Pentala Harikrishna

Are you happy with current women chess tournament system at the International level?


In 2008 after winning World Juniors you said in your first ChessBase interview that your goal is to become like Judit Polgar. Are you happy with your current progress?

I am not completely happy with my progress, but at the same time I should not be really hard on myself in judging my achievements. I got delayed in achieving my goals and will sooner or later achieve each and every one of them.

What’s your New Year’s resolution?

I want to do my best in the upcoming World Women Championships and to enter in the top five women world rankings.

What role has ChessBase played in your life as a chess player?

ChessBase is like the heart. Without it we cannot function (smiles). It has become the most important tool to prepare almost for every player.

Thank you very much Harika and good luck for your upcoming tournaments!

Special pictures of Harika

The tamer of wild beasts

The globetrotter

Enjoying a light-hearted moment with Elina Danielian

Receiving the bronze medal at the FIDE Grand Prix, Sharjah, 2014

“I can reach higher!” with WGM Alina L’Ami

The“h3” of Indian chess (Harika, Hari and Humpy)

Highlights of Harika's Career

  • Winner; Asian Under-10 (Girls) at Bikaner (Rajasthan) in 2002. Also won the Under-18 title in the Asian Open Chess Championship in 2002 at Bikaner.
  • Bronze medal, World Youth Chess Festival (Under-12, Girls) in Greece in 2002
  • In the World Cup Chess at Hyderabad in 2002 she defeated former women world champion Maya Chidurdanidze.
  • Became youngest women International Master in Asia at 12 yrs.
    (i) First WIM Norm from Asian Youth Championship in Tehran, Iran, in 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 in Goa, India
  • Won the board prize (Gold medal) on fourth board in the Asian Team Championship at Jodhpur (Rajasthan) in 2003.
  • Won Silver medal in the women category at the Commonwealth Chess Championship in Mumbai, India, in 2003. Here she got her maiden WGM and IM norms.
  • Silver medal, Asian Women Championship at Calcutta, India, in 2003. Harika finished her second WGM and IM norms.
  • Winner of the Bronze medal in the Under-12 category at the World Youth Chess festival at Greece in 2002.
  • Became the youngest WGM in Asia by winning the Commonwealth Under-18 title at Mumbai, India, in 2004. In addition, she collected her third and final WGM norm.
  • She got her third and final IM norm to become an International Master at Chennai in International Open Tournament.
  • 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 became World Under-14 Girls Champion at Elista, Kalmykia in 2004.
  • Won Silver medal in Asian Junior Girls championship at Bikaner, in December, 2004.
  • She won the Commonwealth Women's Championship three times in 2006, 2007 and 2010.
  • She has won three World Youth Chess Championship titles: in 2004, she won the Girls Under-14 in Heraklion, Greece, and in 2006, she won the Girls Under-18 in Batumi, Georgia.
  • She was awarded the Arjuna Award in 2007.
  • She was the leading female of the Gibraltar Chess Festival's 2008 tournament.
  • In 2008, she took the Girl's title at the World Junior Chess Championship at Gaziantep, Turkey, winning with a point to spare.
  • She won Bronze medal in 2010 Asian Games in Woman's individual rapid event.
  • She reached the quarter-finals of the Women's World Chess Championship 2010.
  • She became the second Indian woman (after Koneru Humpy) to achieve the title of Grandmaster at the men's level.
  • She reached the semi-finals of the Women's World Chess Championship 2012, but lost to Antoaneta Stefanova.
  • She won Bronze medal in Women Fide Grand Prix, Sharjah 2014.

FIDE Instructor Niklesh Kumar Jain Jain is an international chess player who has participated in tournaments in almost in 20 different countries, winning the international tournament in Sri Lanka in 2010. He also worked for a television network as an anchor and news writer for two years and reported in Hindi during World Chess Championship 2013 and 2014.


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