Harika, playing with white against Russia’s Olga Girya, had to dig deep to pull off the much needed draw to win the title, her maiden career GP title.
Harika finished on seven points in the round robin tournament featuring the world’s top 12 players to be crowned the chess queen in Chengdu.
It was a grand day for India as the other Grand Master Koneru Humpy too rounded off her campaign with a victory to also finish on seven points. Harika, however, was declared winner for finishing with a better tie-break record in the tournament.
It was a nerve-racking day for Harika as the pressure got to her and she ended up making mistakes.
“I was in a winning position,” she said shortly after the win. “But I felt the pressure and couldn’t play my best game. I am extremely happy as this is my first Grand Prix title.”
Olga kept her at the table for 62 tense moves before finally accepting the draw. The triumph adds a bounty to her points tally and should see her qualify for the World Championships later this year.
Harika couldn’t help but get emotional as the national anthem was played at the Chengdu arena to celebrate her victory. “I felt numb and exhilarated as I listened to the national anthem,” she recollected.
The 25-year-old began the Grand Prix on a positive note, winning her first two games and jumping into the lead. She had to settle for four draws after that and even slipped to the second position.
She sprang back to the top of the table in the seventh round, when she beat compatriot Humpy. She played calmly and smartly in the remaining four rounds to earn draws and go on to win the title.