The success of Vishy Anand lead to a slew of strong Grandmasters coming out of India, and the Indian Women’s number two was one of those to lead the charge. Born in the Guntur district of the Southeastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh in 1991, Dronavalli had tremendous success from an early age. She won the silver medal at the World Youth Girl’s U10 Championships in 2000. Harika followed this up with another silver medal in the U12 section in 2001. Her regional junior successes are too many to name, but one of the most eye-catching was capturing gold at the Asian Girl’s U18 games in 2002 as an 11-year-old. In fact, she’s won a whopping 16 medals at national level tournaments throughout her career.
Harika is a regular participant in the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix series, and won the 2016 Chengdu event. She’s also had consistent success at the Women’s World Championship knockout events, winning the bronze medal three times (2012, 2015, 2017). The 2017 event was particularly memorable, as she came within a hair’s breadth of defeating the eventual winner, Tan Zhongyi. She was neck and neck with the Chinese Grandmaster the whole way, only losing in a tense Armageddon game. Dronavalli has also represented India in numerous Olympiads, and has had much open tournament success as well.
Her exploits have made her a star in her country, as she won the Arjuna Award for sporting success in 2007, was 2016 and 2017 Chess Player of the Year in The Times of India, and also in 2017 was featured in Verve Magazine among the top 40 popular women sportspersons of the year. She’ll be coming to St. Louis immediately after playing the extremely strong Gibraltar Open. Harika has a creative and versatile style, and there is little doubt that she’ll pick up many new fans at her first Cairns Cup appearance.