Person of day   -  27 FEBRUARY 2021

HOU YIFAN

HOU YIFAN

Hou Yifan learned to play chess at the age of six and moved to Beijing at 10 in order to study at the National Chess Center under the tutelage of Ye Jiangchuan. From an early age, she has demonstrated a high level of ability and achieved remarkable results.

In 2003, Hou Yifan became the U10 female world champion and one year later, she split 1st-3rd places in an analogous competition for boys. In 2006, at the age of 12, she was already playing for the Chinese national team at the third board, winning 11 points out of 13 and fulfilling the requirements for female grandmasters for the second time. A year later, she became the youngest female national champion in Chinese history and in 2008 she fulfilled the requirements for a male grandmaster twice, the first time at the Aeroflot Open in Moscow.

In August 2008, at the women’s world championship in Nalchik, the 14-year-old girl was one of the favourites, having broken multiple age records. The Chinese chess player did reach the final after defeating Humpy Koneru in the semis, but there she lost to Alexandra Kosteniuk, who became the 12th female world champion. Alexandra demonstrated a performance of higher quality and maturity and her opponent was forced to postpone her ambitious plans until the next championship. But Hou Yifan continued to participate in multiple competitions successfully, including men’s tournaments.

In December 2010 in Turkey, the young chess player, who was prophesied the highest chess title by many, achieved that goal at the knockout world championship. Aged 16, she became the youngest female world champion in chess history. Before Hou Yifan, that record was held by Maia Chiburdanidze, who won the world championship at 17. In November 2011, Hou Yifan won the match for the world championship, which took place in Albania. Her opponent, a young Indian player called Humpy Koneru, could not mount a serious challenge to her: the match finished with two games to spare with a score of 5,5:2,5 to the world champion.

In November 2012 at the world championship in Khanty-Mansiysk, Hou Yifan lost her title after unexpectedly losing in the second round to the Polish grandmaster Monika Socko. The winner at that knockout tournament was the Ukrainian chess player Anna Ushenina. As the winner of the FIDE Grand Prix, Yifan had the right to a match against the new champion. This took place in September 2013 in the Chinese city of Taizhou and it ended with a convincing victory for the host player: Hou Yifan won four matches, drew three and regained her chess crown. 

2014 brought new victories for the world champion; at the stage of women’s FIDE Grand Prix in Khanty-Manskiysk, she overtook the silver medallist by 1,5 points and, in Lopota, she came first by 2 points. At the start of 2015, Hou Yifan performed well at the super-tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Her rating rose to 2672, which was only three points lower than history’s finest female player, Judit Polgar.  

In 2015, Hou Yifan declined to defend her title at the knockout world championship in Sochi, preferring to attend a tournament in Hawaii. In Sochi, Mariya Muzychuk won, but Hou Yifan had the right to play against her because she was the winner of FIDE’s Grand Prix. This contest took place in Lvov in March 2016; Hou Yifan achieved a decisive victory by a score of 6:3. However, the world champion did not play in the 2017 knockout world championship in Tehran, but instead she played at the start of men’s FIDE Grand Prix in Sharjah. 

In September 2018, Hou Yifan started studying at Oxford, and that's why she didn't play chess as much as before.  

In December 2019, she won the Belt and Road World Chess Woman Summit with 5/7 points. In 2020, at age 26, Hou became the youngest ever professor at Shenzhen University where she is a professor at the School of Physical Education.