Determined Harika eyes medal at the 44th Chess Olympiad

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, starting on Thursday in Mamallapuram, Chennai.

The 31-year-old has been the backbone of India’s women’s team at the Olympics for 18 years. Harika is competing in her eighth consecutive Olympics and is on track to set a national record for consecutive Olympic appearances since her debut in 2004.

“I’m optimistic about our chances, but I don’t want to put pressure on us. Of course we are the first on paper, but in the end it all depends on how we do it together,” Harika said.

At an advanced stage of pregnancy, Harika said she was still in the best possible mental state and determined to do her best.

“Off the board I’ve been trying to keep myself in the best shape possible and chess-wise I kept training until last week and attended several online chess events to stay in touch. I am very happy with the composition of the team and I am sure we will try to exceed our capabilities.”

The combination of Koneru Humpy in the top half and Harika in the second gave their opponents an almost insurmountable barrier and took the pressure off the bottom.

Aware of the challenges ahead for the team, Harika named Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, USA and Kazakhstan among the teams to watch out for at the event.

“We all want to do well so that sponsors are motivated to host an increasingly prestigious tournament in India. The perception of chess has turned to the positive side in India and hosting this Olympics will have a huge impact on all aspects of chess,” he added.

India’s best showing came in fourth at the 2012 Olympics in Turkey, where Harika took the individual silver medal in second.

Harika is one of India’s most accomplished players, having won multiple medals in the age group and open categories. A Padmashri Prize winner and one of the most solid and consistent players on the Indian chess scene, he vowed again this time: “I am mentally prepared to do my best.”

India is hosting the prestigious event for the first time and it will run until August 10.

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