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Harika Dronavalli eyes improved show at women’s World Championships

Dronavalli is aiming to better her game rather than rankings in the upcoming Women's World Championships.

IANS | Kolkata |

In-form Grand Master Harika Dronavalli is aiming to better her game rather than rankings in the upcoming Women's World Team Chess Championships starting June 16 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

The 26-year old Guntur-born girl has slipped five rungs to No. 10 in FIDE World Rankings from her career-best listing of No. 5 that she achieved last year.

"It's going on well. We have been working really hard on our game," Harika told IANS in a telephonic interview on the upcoming Women's World Team Championships where, besides her, international masters Padmini Rout, Eesha Karavade, Vijaylakshmi Subbaraman and Tania Sachdev will comprise the Indian team.

"I am working hard on my game and that to me is more important than rankings," Harika said.

"They (rankings) keep on changing every month. Even when I was fifth in the world after the Reykjavik Open, I did not bother about rankings or was not elated that much. My aim is to be World No. 1 and for that to happen I need to improve every aspect of my game."

The GM's climb to the world No. 5 spot came after a commanding performance at the Isle of Man international chess tournament in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Riding on a series of wins in international tournaments in 2016, it was the second time in the same year that Harika had scaled to the top five.

Her journey up the table had started in April 2015 when she bagged bronze in the World Women's Chess Championship by virtue of reaching the semifinal.

At the 2017 Women's World Chess Championship, Harika lost to China's Tan Zhongyi, but her overall show of grit and determination impressed the connoisseurs of the game.

Harika though is not willing to rest on her laurels and is hungry for more.

"No, I would not say 2015 or 2016 was my best year. But yes in terms of results, 2016 was one of the best. I broke into the top five in rankings and won the Grand Prix and a bronze in the World Championships the year before.

"I want to move on and take my game one notch higher. That's the aim at the moment," quipped Harika when asked if she was going through a purple patch.

In 2016, she won the FIDE Women's Grand Prix at Chengdu in China and finished the FIDE set of Women's Grand Prix's in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia, in December, bagging an overall 5th position.

In compatriot and World No. 4 Koneru Humpy, Harika has a strong rival at home. She pulled Humpy down to recapture the pole position in the Fide Women's Grand Prix last year, a match that was keenly followed.

"It is very important to have such rivalries," said Harika, who admires celebrated Russian chess player Vladimir Kramnik, Hungarian Judit Polgar and India's own Viswanathan Anand.

"When you have top players around, you tend to work harder. You push yourself to the limits and she (Humpy) is a top player. I don't see it as a rivalry. It is good for the audiences in any sport to have two players of the same country jostling with each other. For us, it's great as it presents you with an opportunity to improve."

Asked if the Harika-Humpy rivalry could be compared to the more talked about P.V. Sindhu-Saina Nehwal battles, she replied in the affirmative. "But it is all healthy if you ask me."

Tipping Ramesh Babu Vaishali of Chennai as the next big thing in Indian women's chess, Harika hoped more female players would take up the sport in future.

"There is a lot of potential. Vaishali is the most promising according to me in India at the moment.

"The women here have done very well, winning Asian and World Championships. I just hope the interest levels increase in the years to come. I am confused why there are not many chess players among women in the country."