CHENNAI: There was a moment in March last year that many thought was a symbolic, passing-of-the-torch one. Viswanathan Anand was playing in the 2016 Candidates tournament to find the next challenger to Magnus Carlsen’s crown. A fourth-round loss to Sergey Karjakin saw him fall behind Pentala Harikrishna in the live FIDE ratings. It was the first time in more than 30 years that Anand was not India’s No 1 player.
However, instead of kicking on from there, Harikrishna has lost significant ground since. After breaking into top ten last year, he now finds himself at 20th. 2017 has not been the best for him, with a string of losses to lesser opponents. And the 31-year-old is not happy with that. “Several losses in last couple of months were unnecessary,” Harikrishna told Express.
“From better positions, I made silly mistakes to lose. Most of them were due to tiredness. I had a busy schedule for the last few months. But I’ve a few weeks time now and will analyse what went wrong and try to fix it.”
Harikrishna was last seen in action at the Russian Grand Prix, his maiden outing in the GP series. After a poor start by his standards, Harikrishna clawed back with a couple of wins. But the damage had been done and he could only finish tenth. “It was kind of frustrating because I had a good chance to finish higher up,” he said.
“It was my maiden outing in a Grand Prix tournament, and it didn’t go the way I would’ve wanted. I should have done better, as I was not playing badly, and it was a few costly errors that I made in initial junctures that saw me finish tenth. I should have finished higher up, had I not lost my way in the middle in a few games. But I’ll try to avoid the mistakes that I made there, or even for that matter in other tournaments. I’ve my chin up and will try and do better in upcoming Grand Prix events.”
The Grand Prix series is unique in that players can play three of the four events. Players will get points corresponding to where they finish and the top two, at the end of the series, will get slots in the Candidates tournament, where the next challenger for Carlsen’s crown will be decided. Having skipped the opening GP event in Sharjah, Harikrishna is now 18th on the table. But the Guntur-born lad will have an opportunity to gain ground at the next event in Geneva, with the likes of Ding Liren and Hikaru Nakamura skipping it.
“The next GP starts in Geneva from July 5,” he said. “In Moscow, I scored 50 per cent, and had I scored half a point more, I would’ve gotten 50 GP points more. In any case, I’ll give my best in remaining the two and hope for the best. Grand Prix series and World Cup are both important as they’re qualifying events for the Candidates.”