What were your expectations from this tournament since you were arriving after delivering good performances this year?
To be honest, not many expected me to do well. I was the 13th seed in the competition and my target was to finish in the top-3. After a good start in the first five rounds, the loss in the sixth round to Irina Bulmaga of Romania hurt my title hopes.
At what point did you realize that you had a chance of fighting for the title?
My 12th round victory against Tan Zhongyi re-ignited my hopes. I played my best in the tournament against her. In that crunch game, I was able to come up with good moves and that win was very satisfactory.
Talk us about the playoffs where you lost the first of the two blitz games before making a comeback…
It was a little difficult for me to switch from rapid to blitz. I lost the opening clash on time and was very disappointed with that outcome. In the second clash, I gave it my all as there was no other option but thankfully it paid off. Once the clash went to the ‘Armageddon’ round, I just held my nerve to win the title.
How would you rate this win?
This victory has to be the biggest moment of my career. Though I became the girls’ junior world champion back in 2001, but winning this title feels even more special. I missed my family since they are in India and will celebrate with them once I am back.
How much confidence does this win give you in your pursuit of bagging the world title in the classical format?
This win gives me a lot of self-belief. You can prepare as much as you want, but the confidence (to do even better) will come only once you start winning tournaments. My best in the classical format has been a silver medal and I hope to win that title in future.
Magnus Carlsen is often seen playing football in order to take his mind off chess. How do you unwind?
I do take breaks during preparations. During tournaments, I do have clippings of comedy scenes from Telugu movies which I watch the night before any match. Also, I speak to my two-year-old daughter Ahana. If not for the support of my husband and family, it would have been difficult to reach this stage.