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Interview: N. Ramaraju on Chess

by Hinduja Reddy - 21/02/2017

What does it take to create a world class grandmaster? Few coaches in India can claim to know the answer to this question. And of them is the coach of Dronavalli Harika—Mr. N. Ramaraju. As Harika battles it out against Dzagnidze in the World Championship Quarters, read end enjoy this exclusive interview with the Hyderabad-based trainer by Hinduja Reddy.

Interview: N. Ramaraju on Chess

To create a world champion, all you need is a mixture of sugar, spice, and everything nice (and an accidental dose of chemical X). Aha! Now the player is ready to take on the World. A word of caution, though—this formula is not entirely expedient.


A much more realistic approach is to have focussed efforts from every end i.e student, parents, and the coach. GM Dronavalli Harika is on her quest to claim glory in Tehran.


Her coach Narahari Ramaraju, in this interview, shares with us the story behind the making of the golden girl of Indian chess.

Dronavalli Harika [Photo: Alina L'Ami]

Hinduja Reddy: First of all, please tell us about yourself and also about your transition from a player to a coach?

N.V.S. Ramaraju: I am a B.Com graduate and my native place is Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. I learned chess in my collage days and represented Nagarjuna University in the National Inter-University Championship. I began working as a chess coach in 1998.


How did Harika start working with you? 

I started coaching Harika in the year 1999. She was an 8-year-old child when we began working together. Shortly, after a year, she won the U-09 National Girls Chess Championship held in Aurangabad. 

A young Harika with Mr. Ramaraju

Initially, what qualities have you observed in Harika?

She was a quick learner, had an excellent memory and was flexible in her approach towards the game. Incidentally, those original qualities still remain.


In many interviews, she owed her success to you and her parents. She considers you as a brother. How demanding was your role as a coach?

We are like family members. It is entirely a team work: parents, the student and the coach.


What are your predictions for the ongoing Women's World Championship?

This is a knock-out format. So, players have no chance to play in their natural style. Everybody's strategy is to play it safe. I hope Harika handles her nerves during the games. She has a strong chance to become a World Champion.


Can you recount any remarkable incident from your career? And coming to milestones, what were those special moments?

One incident I vividly remember happened during the World Youth Chess Championship 2006 held in Georgia. Actually, we prepared for the U-16 Girls' category but due to the oversight of our team manager, Harika's name was given in U-18 girls' category! Nevertheless, Harika took it as a challenge and won the U-18 girl's world championship.


In the same year, she was honoured with the prestigious Arjuna Award by the Government of India. Then, later on, she became a grandmaster in 2011. These are my proud, memorable moments. 

Bringing chess into fashion and vice versa

Koneru Humpy and Dronavalli Harika are only two female grandmasters in the country, what can be done to produce more female grandmasters?

Female players should be given proper training and provided opportunities to participate in strong tournaments. We have strong women players but they don't have a chance to participate in strong tournaments due to various reasons. Europeans and Chinese are marching forward in this aspect. So, naturally, we are lagging behind because our players don't get those level of tournaments.


What is the typical day in your academy?

Previously, my academy was in Guntur. In 2011, I moved to Hyderabad and opened RACE Chess Academy. Our typical day starts with morning yoga, chess class through out the day and in the evening we study various books or solve chess studies.

A 'family' selfie?

Your students are sometimes overshadowed by Harika. Can you tell us about your most notable students? 

There are many talented players in my academy. To name a few: Harsha Bharathakoti is the latest IM in the country; WIM Pratyusha Bodda (2262) is a 2 WGM norm holder; FM Praneeth Surya (2375) IM norms holder; Jishitha D. (1859) is reigning National U-13 girls champion; Praneeth Vuppala is a U-08 Bronze medalist in Asian youth chess championship 2015, and so on.

Newly minted IM Harsha B incidentally is the nephew of Mr. Ramaraju 

What advice would you give to parents of young budding players and how do you think chess is beneficial for young minds?

Chess nurtures creativity, exercises mind to take up challenges, improves planning and reading skills. Education and chess are equally important and we have to find the right balance.


Also read:

  1. Tehran WWC 4.1: Harika bulldozes through Dzagnidze
  2. Tehran WWC TB03: Harika through, Padmini out!
  3. Sharjah GP 02: MVL leads with perfect score

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