Aiming at the world
Harikrishna has set his eyes on the China Open coming up in July and is working at constantly improving his game.
Cool and composed.
PENTYALA HARIKRISHNA may be just 16. But he is quite predictably caught in the `middle-game' of what is deemed to be an illustrious career. He has realised the huge task ahead and also the expectations of the millions of chess lovers on him. Now, he is mapping the route to the ultimate pedestal in chess - world championship. With corporate giant, Wipro, assuring complete financial support in his odyssey to the pinnacle, the genial and still-suave Harikrishna has started chalking out a competitive schedule to enhance not just his reputation but also improve his own game.
The China Open commencing from July 3 is one of them where 12 top men and women players from India will take part in the event with an ELO rating of 2450. "Obviously, whatever I had learnt during an intensive, one-month long coaching camp with Russian Super Grandmaster Vladimirov will be experimented and I am confident of being successful,'' he says.
The Prathipadu boy from Guntur district, now a regular in Hyderabad, deeply immersed in his closed-door preparations, may sound a bit over-confident. But he means what he talks. And, mind you, he does very little of that. He may be still in his teens but he is already a veteran of sorts, one of the most sought after in Indian chess in post-game analyses by many of the leading Grandmasters from the country with Abhijit Kunte heading that list. For, they are fully aware of his uncanny knack of spotting a weak move or coming up with the right alternative to any game - not necessarily his own.
If Lanka Ravi is the first International Master from the State, then his student - remember that Harikrishna was with him in Chennai for six months way back in 1993 when many were not even familiar with the chess prodigy's name, leave alone his game - has made giant strides to become not only the first world championship (under-10) title winner in 1996 from the State but also being the youngest Grandmaster ever from India at the age of 15, erasing the previous one of the former FIDE world champion Viswanathan Anand.
Widely acknowledged as a wonderful exponent of positional play and one who hates to give up even from seemingly, hopeless positions on the 64-square board, Harikrishna (ELO 2568), like a true champion takes immense pleasure in cornering the rival, irrespective of his reputation. "The focus in the camp was clearly on improving my openings and middle-games,'' says the modest champion performer.
The reason for his extra keenness in this regard is pretty obvious - he wants to break into the ELO 2600-plus club in world chess. "I don't think it is impossible, but at the same time one must confess it is a tough task, requiring lots of preparations and hard work,'' he says.
Harikrishna makes his moves quick and right.
The intentions of the State Government are pretty clear - to make Andhra, the chess capital of the country. And the credit for generating that kind of interest should go to players like Harikrishna and the World junior champion, Koneru Humpy, whose stunning feats over the last three years have left many in a daze and more importantly triggered off a virtual chess revolution in the State, particularly in the coastal Andhra belt.
Harikrishna, ranked No.3 in India, is aware of the great expectations of his well-wishers from the State when he enters the battle-field in the prestigious World Cup to be held in Hyderabad. "I am not sure what exactly is the format there. May be, it will be similar to a Grand Prix. But, I am determined to make my presence felt and say thanks to all those were responsible in shaping of my career including the Government, the sponsors, with a memorable performance,'' says Harikrishna.
For that result, the efforts are already on - practising five hours a day, armed fully with all the required data base thanks to the latest Fritz computer as his most reliable partner.
The Intermediate first year student (CEC) of Pragathi Junior College (Kakinada) has picked eight gold, two silver and one bronze in the 13 major tournaments in which he took part in the last three years.
This includes the Commonwealth Championship gold in last August (which he feels is his most satisfying one) in England, the Asian Open championship in Bikaner this February and silver in the National 'A' championship, which is of a totally different class in terms of competition now.
He is also very keen on the World Junior championship, which is scheduled before the Hyderabad World Cup.
One thing which is certain is that all the performing stars from the State on the sports front are being recognised by the Government in a big way.
And Harikrishna was bestowed with a house site and cash incentives running into lakhs of rupees. In a special gesture, he was even allotted a house in Jubilee Hills to stay and prepare till he constructs his own. Importantly, Harikrishna, like Koneru Humpy, is determined to script history in Indian chess by aiming to become the youngest world champion from the country.
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