Grandmaster P Harikrishna gave credit to "hard work and support" for his success in chess after winning the double bonanza of the Arjuna Award and tied top spot in Marx Gyorgy Memorial tournament at Paks, Hungary, this month.
The former World Junior Champion, who first came in limelight at the World Under-10 in 1996, became the country's youngest Grandmaster in 2001, and has been exemplary in the last one decade.
Excerpts of his interview:
What was the feeling after winning the Arjuna Award and finishing joint first finish in Paks?
It is really a moment that I will cherish for my life. I had been expecting the (Arjuna) award this time after our team won the Gold medal in the Asian Games at Doha and overall also my performance in the past couple of years has been fine. I would like to dedicate this award to my grandfather, late Ranga Rao who introduced me to the game.
It has been a lot of hard work?
Frankly yes, but the support has been a very important factor. I have come to realise that things do not happen by chance or by luck in chess. Those factors play a near-negligible role. I think hard work and support is a must.
You had quite an indifferent start for a defending champion in the Marx Gyorgy memorial and had to bounce back real hard. What went wrong initially?
Just before this tournament I was in another time zone at Montreal where I was playing quite decent chess. Suddenly, coming back to Europe from Canada became a problem as I feel I couldn't recover from my jet lag quickly enough. However, after losing the first round I was vigilant enough to get back in shape.
Yes, towards the end of the first half you struck form again.
True, I thought it was now or never if I wanted to have my chances in the tournament. I played a nice game against Hou Yifan of China and then topped it with a couple of victories in the early second half. It was enough only for a joint first though, I regret not beating Yifan a second time in the return game which would have ensured I won the event solely.
I think the Arjuna announcement played a major role in reversal in my form as I won three games in a row after I heard of it.
You have a direct seat in the next World Cup of chess. What will be your aim and objective for that tournament?
Yes, I only recently found out that I have a direct seat. The World Cup is always a difficult tournament. I made it to the third round last time, but to be there till the end is the key in these knock-out events. I guess I will have to prepare harder this time.
What are your views on the World Championship format this year and chances of Anand winning the title again?
The World championship is going to be tough as ever. All these top players are very strong and to pick one winner might be difficult before the event ends. Personally, I feel Anand can win it again.
You have been busy playing a few tournaments of late and have quite a few lined up in future too. What's the plan of action?
In fact, I am not playing too much, just enough I guess. I had a bad start to the year at Aeroflot where I was not well and ended up losing more than 20 rating points. That proved disastrous for me and I knew it will be hard work to be back where I was.
I regained my composure in a few team tournaments after that and now I feel things are finally shaping up quite well. I am playing Mainz after this and then the European Club Cup. After that there is a Blindfold tournament in Bilbao where Topalov, Judith and Carlsen are also playing. Thereafter it will be the World Cup in November.
It is said that you are training hard these days. Who is your coach?
I do not have a permanent coach as yet but time and again I am practicing with many Indian players and a few prominent trainers of the world. I think training hard is a must if one has to be a world class player.
You are currently sponsored by the SUN Group. What kind of support is given to you?
I had been a bit worried about taking up chess professionally after my last sponsorship contract ended. However, luckily for me, SUN Group stepped in to support me and their support is whole hearted. I am really thankful to them.
What's your message for the budding players of the country?
Dedication and hard work is the key to success in all spheres of life - Chess is no different! Anyone working hard with absolute commitment is sure to succeed. Work hard from the heart and rest assured.