Grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna reflects on his latest win and talks of his life after marriage
India’s Grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna is back to his winning ways.
The Guntur-born, who started his winning streak with his India Under-8 win in 1993 and World Under-10 Champion-ship in 1996, and then went on to bag titles including the gold in the 15th Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, in 2006, and the silver in the 17th Asian TCC, in 2012 in Zaozhuang, China, recently won the Chess 960 event as a part of the recently concluded 53rd Biel Chess Festival in Switzerland.
The championship also had classical, rapid and blitz events.
“I feel glad to be back at playing chess over the board after five months. And to win it, especially during the pandemic, it feels great; that is like a double delight. That being said, I also believe that winning is a habit, so one should not lose it,”
expresses Harikrishna, sharing that missing chess all this while had pushed him to excel.
Harikrishna, one of the world’s elite grandmasters who finished 2nd in Grand Master Triathlon (a combination of classical, rapid and blitz), tells us that playing thirty-five games in two weeks was challenging.
“There were some tense moments, but all in all, it was an interesting experience,” he says, adding that he is satisfied with his overall performance in the championship.
With the pandemic and all the precautions and protocols set around it, the thirty-four-year-old Grandmaster admits that getting used to the ‘new normal’ was testing.
For instance, all the pieces, boards and chess clocks at the event were regularly sanitised after each game, like a reminder of the vulnerability of the moment and the virus one is exposed to.
“Now, you play the game with an apprehension about a possible virus outbreak,” explains Harikrishna. “Imagine what would happen if even one player contracts the virus? The whole tourney would have been cancelled. But all the players followed protocol, and thankfully, everything went well.”
The foreign connection
Harikrishna’s parents stay in Hyderabad, but not many know that the Grandmaster has been residing in Prague, in Czechoslovakia, for the last two years, visiting his parents in India thrice in a year. His reasons are simple. “Living in Prague helps me participate in more championships,” he says. “Additionally, I play for the Novy Bor Chess Club, which is my base in Europe.”
That was not all. In March 2018, Harikrishna married Serbian chess player Nadezda Stojanovic, who plays correspondence chess (Correspondence chess, is played by various forms of long-distance correspondences, often through a correspondence chess server, a public internet chess forum, email or the postal system).
Harikrishna and Nadezda live in Prague, and the Grandmaster claims that while married life has been great, marriage hasn’t really changed anything much for either of them. “In fact, I sometimes think it is good for a chess player to marry another chess player as the spouses understand the life of a chess player,” says Harikrishna. Then, with a chuckle, the Indian No.2 player adds, “On the flip side, Nadezda knows when I make mistakes.”
Then, talking about how the duo discusses chess and how Nadezda sometimes analyses where he has gone wrong, Harikrishna points out how she always offers constructive feedback. Incidentally, Nadezda also arbitrates for chess championships apart from being the captain for Novy Bor women’s team.
“After all, once a chess player, always a chess player,” says a smiling Harikrishna.
As we end our interaction, Harikrishna responds to our question about Nadezda’s liking for all things Indian. “Nadezda cooks Indian food very well,” he says with a smile. “And I haven’t taught her anything. It’s everything she has picked up on her own.”