Artwork by the talented Mike Magnan

Hou Yifan ready for AAI Grandmasters chess
Double round robin from 21st June to 2nd July 2011 in New Delhi

New Delhi, June 6: The reigning women’s world champion Hou Yifan of China is all geared up for the upcoming inaugural AAI Grandmasters Chess Tournament in New Delhi beginning on June 21. The 17-year-old, who last year became the youngest-ever world champion in either men or women’s section, will become the first women’s reigning champion to play in India since Maya Chiburdanidze played in India the early 1980s.

With less than two weeks to go, preparations for the inaugural AAI Grandmasters Chess Tournament are in full swing. Even as the venue at the AAI Officers’ Institute near Safdarjung Airport, New Delhi is being renovated into a world-class venue, the six players are busy preparing for the event in their respective home countries.

Apart from Hou Yifan, the other participants will be World Junior No.1 GM Fabiano Caruana of Italy, Philippines’ No. 1 GM Wesley So, Czech Republic No. 2 GM Viktor Laznicka, India No. 2 GM Krishnan Sasikiran and the reigning Indian National Champion GM Parimarjan Negi.

Apart from all facilities, the tournament will offer total prize money worth US $ 24,500. The winner takes $ 8,000, while the runner-up will receive $ 6,000. The purse for the next four finishers will be $ 4,000, $ 3,000, $ 2,000 and $ 1,500.

“The game was given to the world by India and we also have the world champion from India in Viswanathan Anand. So it is only logical that the AAI supports an endeavour which showcases India’s ancient game and young talent from around the world,” said Mr. V P Agrawal, Chairman Airports Authority of India.

Hou, who interestingly will be challenged by India’s Koneru Humpy for the world title later this year, is using the AAI Grandmasters tournament as part of her preparations. She has already played in numerous events this year with mixed results.

Hou Yifan was recognized as the Best Sportswoman in China a sport that is not included in the normal Olympic programme.

An early qualifier for the World Cup 2011 to be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia in August, Hou recently won the first-ever Chinese Female Professional chess tournament held in Wuxi, Jiangsu in China in April with a highly impressive score of 9/11.

Hou Yifan, however, had a somewhat disappointing result in Asian Individual, where playing in the Open section, she ended 33rd in Mashhad, Iran. The event was won by India’s Pentala Harikrisha.

Three of the players in the tournament included Krishnan Sasikiran (sixth), Parimarjan Negi (ninth) and Wesley So (12th). This trio will be up against Hou Yifan once again in the AAI Grandmasters tournament.

Earlier this month, playing in a very strong Open tournament in Danzhou, Hainan in China, Hou Yifan was out of form and finished last among 10 participants.

Hou Yifan hails from Xinghua, a small prestigious town, which is famous for holding top level Chinese individual chess tournaments for the past three years. The town has two women grandmasters, eight national champions and over 10,000 playing youngsters live here. Besides, many talented chess players are trained for Chinese Chess National Team. Local authorities have made efforts to organize chess activity and training classes in primary schools to promote chess in the town and region.

According to Susan Polgar, one of the strongest-ever women’s players, but now retired, Hou Yifan is preparing for her match against Humpy and all these Open events are part of her larger plan.

Big time chess returns to India for the first time since the mid-1980s when Delhi hosted a string of Grandmaster tournaments. Indians, including Viswanathan Anand benefited from those a lot.

The AAI International Grandmasters Chess Tournament organized by the Airports Authority of India is the highest-ever rated tournament for more than three decades in India.

The AAI, which is a leading Public Sector Enterprise under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, as part of its Centenary Celebration of Civil Aviation in India, is organizing the “AAI International Grandmasters Chess Tournament 2011”.

“We have been supporting various games and young sportspersons, including chess. Parimarjan Negi, the current National champion, and who has broken many records and Dronavalli Harika among women are supported by AAI. Negi, incidentally will also feature in AAI International Grandmasters Chess Tournament,” added Mr. Agrawal.

“It will be a treat for chess lovers in Delhi and all over the country. We will have all modern facilities and use the event to promote the game in India by inviting youngsters to watch and learn,” said Mr. Bharat Singh Chauhan, President, Delhi Chess Association, which is also supporting the event.

“To have a Category 17 event in India has always been Delhi Chess Association’s dream. And now that Delhi also has its first-ever national champion in Parimarjan Negi, it is only logical that we have the tournament in Delhi. The Airports Authority of India, who have been generous supporters of the game, as also other sports, need to be congratulated for making a tournament like this come to life.”

This will be India’s first ever Category 17 chess tournament with a unique group of six grandmasters playing in a double round robin event from June 21 to July 2, 2011.

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Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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