Sochi (Russia): Indian Grandmaster Dronavalli Harika won the bronze medal along with Swedish Grandmaster Pia Cramling by virtue of making it to the semifinals of World Women's chess championship here.
Harika lost to the eventual winner Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine in the semifinals. Muzychuk bagged the title after defeating Russian Natalija Pogonina 2.5-1.5 in the four-game final. She had earlier defeated top seeded Indian Grandmaster Koneru Humpy in the quarters. While both Humpy and Harika got excellent chances to beat
Muzychuk, the Ukrainian prevailed over them, thanks to some steely nerves.
Against Humpy, she was looking at a hopelessly lost position in the deciding tiebreaker when the Indian played an inexplicable blunder and lost. Harika lost to Muzychuk when she was not able to win a simple position with two extra pawns again in the tiebreak games and then lost the return game without much ado. This was
the second time in succession that Harika made it till the semifinals in the knockout championship.
While the last-four finish guarantees Harika a place in the Women's Grand-prix for the next World championship cycle, Humpy has already qualified to the Grand prix thanks to her high world ranking. Muzychuk, who won the gold ahead of many fancied rivals, including Humpy, played out a marathon event lasting six mini-matches and spread over almost three weeks.
Pogonina, who had many ups and downs in the championship finally ran out of steam in the final, losing the second game and drawing the remaining three to win the silver medal. Winner Muzychuk won USD 60000, while Pogonina bagged USD 30000. Harika, who decided to stay back here to receive her medal, got USD 20000.
"I started this tournament as 12th seed so, on paper, it's a nice result. At the same time definitely I am a bit disappointed that I couldn't win gold. But overall, I think it is fine. I played my best chess and gave my best in tough situations," Harika told PTI.
Speaking about her blunder which has cost her a place in the final, Harika said, "I focussed more on not to make mistake in such conditions rather than the position, and I think this is the reason I blundered, it was painful but it's a learning experience.
"It takes a lot of effort to reach here," Harika said adding, "I think credit goes to the people around me: my family, my trainer since childhood N V S Raju, my friend and supporter Eesha (Karavade, an International Master), my sponsors Lakshya and Government of India that supported me under NSDF so I could take training."
Harika also said that GMs Surya Shekhar Ganguly and P Harikrishna were the two important pillars for her good showing here. "I worked with Surya many times which changed my perspective towards chess and here, Harikrishna helped me all through the event which was of great benefit," she said.
Harika next plays in the World Women Team Chess Championship in China in less than two weeks where Humpy will also join the Indian team. "We have got a good team and we are seeded around fifth out of 10 teams. It's a tough competition but we all are prepared to give our best," Harika said.