Challenge before GM Harikrishna is to retain ranking: Chess experts

Chennai, Nov 8 (IANS) The challenge before chess World No. 10 Grandmaster (GM) Pentala Harikrishna is to first retain his ranking and then gradually improve upon it — and it would be nice to see two Indian players figuring in top tournaments, Indian chess experts said.

They also said Harikrishna’s entry into the elite club would give other Indian players the confidence that reaching the top 10 is not something that is beyond their reach.

As per the latest rating list of FIDE for the month of November, the 30-year-old Harikrishna — a former World Junior Champion who hails from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh — was ranked 10th with 2,768 points.

The other Indian GM in the elite list is former World champion Viswanathan Anand (2,779 points) at the seventh place.

This is the first time in the history of Indian chess that two players figure in the top 10 of the World rankings.

As a country, India ranks fifth in the chess world rankings based on the average rating of its top 10 players. Above India are Russia, the United States, China and the Ukraine.

“Harikrishna breaking into the top 10 league is good news. The next target for him should be to get into the top five club. However, his main target now should be to retain his rating and global ranking,” GM Dibyendu Barua, Vice-President of the All India Chess Federation (AICF), told IANS.

Agreeing with him, GM R.B. Ramesh told IANS: “Till now only Anand was in the top 10 in the chess world. With the entry of Harikrishna into that club, other Indian players would certainly gain confidence to aim high.”

Ramesh said the immediate target for Harikrishna should be to maintain his rating and ranking and focus on improving upon them.

“Harikrishna should first enter the 2,800 rating club — which is tough. The gap between the top 3 and him is wide and he has to bridge that,” Ramesh added.

As per the FIDE list only four players — World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen (2,853), GM Fabiano Caruana (2,823), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2,811) and Vladimir Kramnik (2,810) — are in the 2,800 ELO points club.

“Once Harikrishna breaks into the 2800 rating club then automatically the aim would be the world title. But it is not easy as all other top 10 players are strong,” Ramesh said.

Harikrishna has not only to contend with the players above him but also a strong set of players ranked 11th to 14th. The rating difference between Harikrishna and those ranked 11th to 14th in the world is very marginal.

“Harikrishna has been orbiting in the top circles for quite some time and has played against top players. In the recently-concluded chess Olympiad he defeated top players like Sergev Kariakin (2,772) and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2,762) and drew with Carlsen, World No. 11 Anish Giri (2,767) of the Netherlands and World No. 3 Caruana (2,823) of the US,” the coach added.

“That shows Harikrishna is not overawed by the rating or ranking of other top players.”

Harikrishna’s parents had told IANS that his next target is to be in the top four in the world.

Ramesh said Harikrishna will now get invitations to play in top chess tournaments around the world which would give him the opportunity to play against the best chess brains in the world and the chance to improve further.

Financially, too, playing in the top tournaments would be helpful as there will be an appearance fee.

Even to stay at one place a top chess player has to engage other top players as trainers or playing partners and that involves payment of a handsome fee.

Harikrishna currently meets those expenses out of the prize money he wins and from his own pocket.

“The AICF can take up with the government to extend support to top chess players meeting certain norms,” Barua said.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at v.jagannathan@ians.in)

–IANS

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