Harika stays fully focused for the Chess Olympiad

GM Dronavalli Harika is plotting her strategy for the Chess Olympiad — to be held in Chennai from July 28 — at home (in a few weeks she will be a mother) far away from her teammates.

“We are all eagerly awaiting what is arguably one of the toughest tournaments. The preparations are going well and the focus is on giving our best,” Harika told The Hindu.

“I don’t know how it will turn out. Mentally it is not so different but physically it is totally different and I am trying to not let it affect me,” the three-time World championship bronze medallist said.

“Training at home is not difficult, but it feels a little different not being able to do many things normally,” she said. “I am in touch with most of them (teammates). We have known one another for many years, so it’s not difficult,” she said.

Strong contenders

“We are top seeds but there are several equally strong teams. Given my condition, the situation is totally different for the team,” Harika said.

“I don’t think there will be any pressure. We are all professionals, and understand that success and failure are part of the sport. This team is highly focused and motivated,” Harika said.

“Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Poland are among teams that are strong but have lesser ratings,” said Harika, who has competed in 10 Olympiads since 2004 when she was just 13, including two online.

Personal goals

“If we can win medals in the Olympiad, that should inspire more people to take up chess,” she said. “Personally, my goal is to be World champion and World No. 1 and, thankfully, I have amazing family support always because of which I can play for as long as I want,” she said with a smile.

Her employer, Indian Oil, has also provided huge support, she remembered gratefully.

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