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Playing the Olympiad in 36th week of pregnancy - Harika Dronavalli

by Himank Ghosh - 10/01/2023

Harika Dronavalli is an absolute inspiration to women all across India and the world. She played a high pressure tournament like the Olympiad in her 9th month of pregnancy. She was 36 weeks pregnant. It's amazing how she managed to keep her cool, not lose a single of the 7 games she played and win a bronze medal for the country. How did she do it? In this detailed video she talks about the highs and lows, the detailed preparation needed, the family support, the support from the near ones as well as the trainers, team mates and federation. It was not at all an easy feat! There are women who are unable to sustain the mental and physical pain at this advanced level of pregnancy, and here was Harika, crushing it at the chess board! How did she do it? Read her story below. Thumbnail: Abhyudaya Ram.

Harika Dronavalli - Warrior on and off the board

Harika's bravery - playing the Olympiad in 9th month (36th week) of pregnancy | Video: ChessBase India

Timestamps of the full Interview:

0:47 - Sagar welcomes Harika,asks about her performance in Tata Steel Chess India 2022, finishing 3rd. Harika says the performance exceeded her expectations!

"I proved myself in the worst scenario let's say, and that gives me satisfaction. Let's summarize it that way!"

One of the best female players across the world, Harika Dronavalli in action at Tata Steel Chess India 2022.

2:47 - Harika's daughter Hanvika is right now 3 months old. Generally it's very tough for parents to travel in this time, how did she manage this? Harika lists her inspirations to take this decision.

" I'm trying to be a mother she can look up to sometime!"

A beautiful picture of Harika's baby girl, Hanvika. Photo: Harika Instagram

6:29 - The 9th month of your pregnancy is a time when you are not even in your topmost mental state, let alone physical state! How did you manage to not lose a single game at the Chennai Chess Olympiad 2022? Harika takes us through the whole story of how she decided to play in the event, who were the people who helped her in this journey, what were the preparations she had to undertake, and much more.

"To be honest, I never really felt it was a very big thing, because for me it was very important to play the Olympiad. I have always been a part of the team consistently for all the years, and I wanted to see the medal for India, I wanted to be there too with the team."

Harika Dronavalli enters the hall leading the Indian Women's A Team | Chennai Olympiad 2022

14:56 - Harika speaks about her feeling guilty for the limelight she had because of her pregnancy

"To me, it's just a self-satisfaction moment. I feel guilty when I take limelight, you know being pregnant and playing, okay everyone else is also playing, it's not something extraordinary I'm doing. I don't really enjoy all the limelight because of pregnancy, but I definitely feel special for all the love and support I received."

Even amidst all the camera flashes every time she entered the hall, Harika's focus was completely unwavered! Photo: Lennart Ootes

16:09 - Amruta tells Harika she is an inspiration for women to keep doing what they love, and she should not feel guilty.

"That is for sure, but I have seen people doing much harder things in life. There are much tougher things in life than what we think! My grandmother used to do all the household work and also take care of 3 kids, she also took care of me and my sister. For me, taking care of my one kid feels like such a big responsibility! These silent heroes inspired me to understand that what I am doing is actually not a big deal. I am glad that people are inspired, but there are heroes who did exceptional things which we don't know about."

Harika's grandmother played a big role in shaping her career! Here's an Interview with Harika at the 2018 pre-Olympiad coaching camp.

19:06 - What was your plan if you felt it is the time for delivery during an ongoing game?

"I also didn't know a lot about these things, so I was trying to know what to do if at all that happens. I wanted to find a way to not give up on the game, and I was reading all the guidelines to know whether it is possible and safe. Bharat uncle (Bharat Singh Chauhan) arranged an ambulance for me outside. Luckily, nothing of that sort happened!"

"This is my baby's first medal!" - Harika - one week away from delivering her child | Video: ChessBase India

25:57 - Harika's afraid that once she restarts working out, she won't be able to stop!

"I used to go to the morning Badminton sessions where sometimes I'll learn, sometimes I'll jog and play. After finishing my training and playing, whenever new people came and called , I would go and play there. The trainer over there used to say "Madam, go home now, it's enough!"


28:09 - Where does Harika's willpower come from?

"It's been very natural for me since the beginning.... I was a person to take up challenges. Every time I'm thinking "Okay, tomorrow I did two rounds, I have to do the third round today." I keep telling myself these things, and for me that is a way of entertaining myself."

This willpower is the reason Harika was able to recover from Viral fever and score a crucial win for India's victory against Ukraine in the Online Olympiad 2021!

30:33 - How was Karteek (Harika's Husband)'s journey through all of this?

" I think both of us are very similar in this, we didn't think about the consequences! We were like, we have to go. There is no doubt in whatever we are doing. He will be more happy if I play tournaments well! He genuinely likes sports, and that's why it's easier for us to make decisions, because we know we are in the same wavelength."

Karteek has always supported Harika to the fullest in all her pursuits!

33:25 - Harika's dream to become the World Champion!

It continues, exists and I think now more people are added to it. I have double motivation now - my niece is there, my daughter is there, they want to travel the world. So I have to be really good at it, I have to take them out and there is just double the energy right now. Just now when we went to the event Anand sir told he won the world titles at the ages of 30 and 37. I was like okay, I missed the 30 but I can reach 37 for sure! [chuckles] I think until I win it, that hunger will be there.

Harika's superb victory over the World no. 1 Hou Yifan in the Chess Super League 2021

34:17 - Thank you and Good luck!


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