Chennai: Star India chess player Dronavalli Harika is raring to go all out and give her best shot to win a medal at the 44th Chess Olympiad, kickstarting on Thursday in Mamallapurm, Chennai.
The 31-year-old has been the backbone of the Indian women’s team at the Olympiad for the last 18 years. Playing her eighth Olympiad in a row, Harika is in the process of setting the national record of continuous successive Olympiad appearances since she made her debut in 2004.
“I am optimistic about our chances but don’t want to put any pressure on ourselves. Of course, we are the top seeds on paper but at the end of the day, it matters on how we perform collectively,” Harika said.
Pregnant in the advanced stages, Harika said she is still in the best possible shape mentally and is determined to give her best.
“Off board I have tried to keep myself in the best shape possible and chess-wise have kept up my practice and played in some online chess events till last week to stay in touch. I am very happy with the Team composition and I am sure that we will be aspiring to perform above our capacity”.
The combination of Koneru Humpy on the top board and Harika on the second board offers an almost insurmountable barrier for their opponents and eases the pressure on the lower boards.
Aware of the challenges lying ahead of the team, Harika named Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, USA and Kazakhstan amongst the teams to watch out for at the event.
“All of us are intent on performing well so that sponsors get motivated to host more and more prestigious tournaments in India. The perception of chess has changed for the positive in India and hosting this Olympiad will have a big impact in all aspects of chess,” she added.
India’s best effort has been a fourth place in 2012 Olympiad in Turkey where Harika had secured an individual silver medal on the second board.
Harika is one of the most decorated Indian players having won numerous medals at age categories and in open categories. She is a ‘Padmashree’ awardee and one of the most solid and consistent players on the Indian chess scene and this time too she promises, “I have mentally willed to give my best.”
India is hosting the prestigious event for the first-time ever and it will go on till August 10.