Realistically, Humpy is not inferior to Yifan, though her scores in the 10-game Tirana championship and also her past score against the Chinese would weigh against her strength. In fact, Humpy was stronger in rating when they started the match, though the 17-year-old Chinese was still the champion.
Maybe, the Indian did not have the kind of run up to the longest battle that she waged against anyone in her career. The 10-game format came back to women’s chess title match after a long time but this cannot be a reason for failure because Yifan had the same experience.
Perhaps, the Chinese was less experienced in top-flight chess compared to Humpy. “Better and tougher preparation earlier in the year, huge backing from the Chinese Chess Federation, a huge plus score against Koneru, two match wins in the FIDE KO (knockout) format against Koneru, youth and I believe superior talent all on her side all suggested to me that this would happen,” noted Mark Crowther in his analysis of Yifan’s triumph.
Among the factors Crowther mentioned, the backing of the Chinese Chess Federation is striking because by now it is obvious to the world that Humpy has not enjoyed the best of support from All India Chess Federation. It is difficult to conclude that either Humpy or AICF is to blame in the cold war but Hou Yifan was certainly in a better position in that respect as any Chinese player is given the way chess is run in that country.
Perhaps, the decisive factor that swung the match in Yifan’s favour was that the Indian had a huge mental lag againt Yifan, who had scored two wins in shorter matches against her in the same championship in the last three years. Humpy was slightly better in games 1,2 and 8 but still she could not take it beyod the opening level.
“In the first two games she got the position she wanted (out of the opening), but she could not get much,” said GM Abhijit Kunte. “Though Yifan was taken out of the book, she could find over-the-board solutions.” Kunte does not think that this is the end of the world for the Indian. “In fact, Humpy is more experienced and the difference between them is not much as the score would indicate,” he added. Humpy is only in her mid-20s and this match would certainly help her in the battles to come.