Artwork by Mike Magnan

Friday December 31, 2010
Hail to the new queen of chess


A 16-year-old chess prodigy from China has emerged as the new women’s world champ.

NOBODY who had met Hou Yifan in April this year, when she took part in the Kuala Lumpur open chess tournament, would have expected that the petite 16-year-old chess prodigy from China could close 2010 crowned as the new women’s world champion.

“When do you think you can become the world champion?” I had asked her then. She let out a stifled giggle, a reaction which I had mistaken for a nervous laugh. “I don’t know,” she replied.

“But that’s your ambition, isn’t it?” I persisted. “Your last attempt at the world chess title had been so very close,” I men-tioned, referring to the previous world chess championship in Nalchik, Russia, in 2008.

At that time, Yifan was only 14 years old and she had progressed through the knock-out tournament till the final stage. However, her opponent proved to be the better player and she was left to reflect on her lost opportunity.

“Oh, I hope to be better prepared and play better this time,” she had replied modestly.

Well, Yifan has really played better this time and gone one better than before. Two additional years of travelling the world and playing chess against top-notch men’s and women’s players had added to her experience.

Just last Friday in Hatay, Turkey, she finally claimed the women’s chess crown as her own. In the final of the championship, she played the match of her life and just about eked through with a hard-fought win against her compatriot, Ruan Lufei.


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Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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