GM Pentala Harikrishna

Full name
Pentala Harikrishna
Born
May 10, 1986 (age 34)‎
Place of birth
Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India
Federation
India
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Bio

Pentala Harikrishna is an Indian grandmaster and one of the best chess players in that nation’s history.

Early Life And Career

Harikrishna was born in Guntur, a city 64 kilometers north of the Bay of Bengal, in 1986. In his youth, he was almost always India’s best player for his age, winning the country’s national titles for players under the ages of eight, 10, 14, 15, and 18. In 1996 in the under-10 group he also won the world title.

Despite his young age, Harikrishna’s success earned him the third board for India at the 2000 Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey, at the age of just 14. He held a positive score with 6.5 out of 11 for the eighth-place Indian team. The year 2000 was also when Harikrishna earned his IM title.

Grandmaster

Harikrishna was still in his “early life” when he became a GM in 2001 (on September 12), making him at the time the seventh-youngest ever

He played in FIDE’s knockout world championship events in 2002 and 2004. As seed 103 in 2002, he lost to GM Alexander Beliavsky. The 2004 event, as the 69th seed, went slightly better. After a nice first-round victory over GM Xu Jun, Harikrishna lost to fifth-seeded super-GM Vassily Ivanchuk in the second. 

The year 2004 was hugely successful for Harikrishna, as he won the World Junior Championship and entered the world’s top-100 ratings, where he has stayed ever since.

Besides the FIDE championship cycle, Harikrishna has continued to represent India at the biennial Chess Olympiad. His best individual result through 2012 was 8/12 at Turin 2006 while India’s top result was sixth place in 2004.

Successful tournaments in Harikrishna’s first decade as a grandmaster included a share of first at Bermuda and outright first at the Sanjin Hotel Cup in 2005, a year his rating rose 60 points, as well as a win on tiebreak at the 2008 Spice Cup. While his rating rose steadily throughout 2001-2011, the next couple of years are arguably his strongest.

2700 Club

At the 2012 Tata Steel tournament at Wijk aan Zee in January, Harikrishna played in Group B and won that event by half a point over GM Alexander Motylev and GM Lazaro Bruzon.

A 2739 performance rating in the tournament pushed Harikrishna’s overall rating to 2678, as well as moving him into the Group A tournament in the following year. He finished in the middle of the pack, seventh of 14 with +2 -2 =9, which was enough to bump his overall rating to 2705 and join that exclusive club. 

He became just the third Indian player to ever reach a 2700 rating, after GMs Viswanathan Anand and Krishnan Sasikiran. After a brief dip that summer of 2013, Harikrishna returned to the threshold in September and has not fallen below since.

After skipping the 2014 Olympiad, Harikrishna was the first board for the first time in 2016, when India finished fourth. He posted an individual result of 5.5/9.

Recent Years

Harikrishna’s rating rose steadily from his teenage years before peaking at the end of 2016. He briefly made the world top-10 in November 2016, and his rating peaked at 2770 the next month. Since then, he has lost about 50 points but remains one of the world’s best players and in the top 30.

Pentala Harikrishna, 2017
Harikrishna in a discussion at the Riyadh World Rapid/Blitz Championships in 2017. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In the most recent Olympiad, Harikrishna had India’s best individual performance with 7/10, and the nation finished sixth. The Olympiad hasn’t been Harikrishna’s only team event throughout his career, having been on one gold-winning and two silver-winning clubs in the Asian Team Championships, as well the bronze-winning team at the 2010 World Team Championships.

Harikrishna has yet to play in a Candidates tournament for the world championship. Most recently he was eliminated in the third round of the 2019 Chess World Cup, was unable to escape the first round in any of the 2019 Grand Prix events, and finished in the middle of the pack in the Grand Swiss.

Career Summary

Comparisons to Anand are perhaps too obvious to make yet can seem inevitable, even though they have played just two official games at standard time controls, both draws: one at Tata Steel in 2013 and the other at the 2015/16 Bundesliga.

Although the world championship seems out of reach barring an unforeseen change Harikrishna’s trajectory as he enters his mid-30s, he is still a member of the super-GM class of 2700 players and will be a dangerous opponent for some time to come.

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