Grandmaster; Chinese Women's champion (2007 & 2008); 13th Women's World Champion (2010-12 & 2013-2015).
Hou Yifan (侯逸凡) was born in Xinghua City, Jiangsu, China and started playing chess at age 6. She is the youngest female in the history of chess to acquire the GM title, and was the youngest GM in the world when she acquired the title. At 14, she was the youngest ever finalist in a Women's World Championship contest. Winning the Women's World Championship title in 2010 at the age of 16 made her the youngest Women's World Champion ever, beating the mark long held by the legendary Maia Chiburdanidze who won the title in 1978 at the age of 17. In 2011, she successfully defended her title by winning the best-of-ten Hou - Koneru Women's World Championship (2011) by 5.5-2.5 (+3 =5 -0), also making her the youngest Women's World Champion to defend her title, and the youngest to do so successfully.
<Age - Girls> In 2003 she won the U10 Girls division of the World Youth Championships in Halkidiki, Greece.
She scored 9/12 in the World Junior Championship (Girls) (2006) and secured second place on countback behind Shen Yang.
<Age - open> In 2004, she contested the Open U10 World Championship in Heraklio, Crete, placing third. She came third in the World Junior Championship (2008) behind Abhijeet Gupta and Parimarjan Negi.
<National - Women> In June 2007 Hou broke through to win the Women's Chinese National Chess Championship in Chongqing city, a title she successfully defended in Beijing the following May.
<National - open> She competed in the "open" Chinese Championship (2011), scoring 6/11 (+2 -1 =8). She scored 5/11 at the Chinese Chess Championships (2012).
<Continental - open> In 2009, Yifan came equal third in the 8th Asian Continental Chess Championship (2009) (open) (ACCC) with 7/11, half a point behind GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly and GM Zhou Weiqi, qualifying her for the World Cup 2009. She scored 4.5/9 at the 10th Asian Individual Championships (2011).
<Grand Prix> She came second with 7.5/11 in the Women's Grand Prix in Nalchik in 2010 after Tatiana Kosintseva and won the FIDE Women Grand Prix (2010) in Ulan Bator, Mongolia with 8/11 and a 2649 performance rating. Soon after the World Cup 2011 she won the Shenzhen Women's Grand Prix (2011) with a score of 8/11 (+5 =6).
<World - Women> At the age of 12, she contested the FIDE Women's World Championship (2006) in Ekaterinburg, Russia, defeating Nadezhda Kosintseva and Natalia Zhukova in the first two rounds before falling to Nino Khurtsidze in the third round. Yifan capped 2010 and her career so far by becoming the Women's World Champion in December, defeating Ruan Lufei in the tiebreaker 3-1 after drawing the classical games 2-2. Her win earned her China Central Television's 2010 award for Sportsperson of the Year involved in a sport that is not included in the Olympic category* and her title win also qualified her for participation in the World Cup 2011. Hou relinquished her world title a second time in April 2015 when she played in the Hawaiian Masters' Tournament (which she won) instead of the FIDE Women's World Chess Championship (2015) which was scheduled for the same time. As the winner of the Women's Grand Prix 2013-14, she is qualified to contest the Women's world crown later in 2015 against Mariya Muzychuk, who won the knockout event.
<World - open> Having qualified via the ACCC 2009 for the World Cup (2009), she bowed out in the first round after losing to Arkadij Naiditsch. She qualified for the World Cup (2011) by dint of her being the Women's World Champion, but lost to Sergei Movsesian in the first round after missing a winning combination in the second game. In September 2015 she was a Presidential Nominee for the World Cup (2015) where she defeated Rafael Duailibe Leitao in the first round but lost to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the rapid game tiebreaker of the second round to be eliminated from the event.
<Olympiads> Yifan played in the 37th Chess Olympiad: Women (2006) on the Reserve Board (Board 4), winning the silver medal with 11/13 and a performance rating of 2596. She lead her country to a silver medal in the Chess Olympiad (Women) (2010); she also won bronze for her efforts on the top board where she scored 8/11 (+5 -0 =6).
<Women's World Team Championship> Also in 2007, she won a team gold and individual gold and silver medals on board 2 at the 2007 Women's World Team Championships. In 2009, she won team gold and individual bronze playing top board for China in that year's edition of the Women's World Team Championships.
<2005-2010> Hou came fifth in the 3 Arrows Cup in 2005 in Jinan, recording a performance rating of nearly 2400. In 2008 she also won the Isbank Ataturk Women Masters (2008) outright by a clear point ahead of Pia Cramling. In April 2010, after relatively modest results in the Moscow Open (2010) and Aeroflot Open (2010) in February, she won the 3rd Kuala Lumpur Open with 7.5/9.
<2011-2015> She won the 1st Women Master Tournament 2011 at Wuxi with 7/9, and played in the 2nd Hainan Danzhou GM tournament where she scored 2 points from 9 rounds. Her poor form continued in the Airports Authority of India (2011) (3/10) and the 1st Hangzhou Women's GM Tournament (2011)(4.5/9). Yifan staged a partial recovery by winning the FIDE Women's Grand Prix (2011) with 8/11, coasting to a victory by a clear point ahead of Kateryna Lahno (to whom she lost in their individual encounter) after leading by 2 points midway through the event. In December 2011 at the inaugural World Mind Games which featured rapid, blitz and blindfold chess alongside Go, Bridge, Draughts, and Xiangqi, Hou won gold in the women's blitz and in the women's blindfold.** She finished a successful 2011 by winning team gold and two individual silver medals at the FIDE Women's World Team Championship (2011), and by overtaking Koneru as women's world number 2 after Judit Polgar. Hou started 2012 in dramatic style by taking equal first place at Tradewise Gibraltar (2012) with 8/10 (+7 -1 =2; TPR 2872), alongside Nigel Short (+6 =4; TPR 2838), however she came second on tiebreak when she lost the 2 game blitz playoff with Short by 1.5-0.5; her record against the 7 GMs she played, each of whom was rated over 2700 was 5/7, and included wins against Zoltan Almasi, Judit Polgar, Le Quang Liem and Alexey Shirov, draws against Michael Adams and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and a loss to Krishnan Sasikiran. A few weeks later, she came close to winning the Reykjavik Open (2012), but failed to find the right continuation to defeat the eventual winner, Fabiano Caruana, in the last round; she scored 7/9 (+5 =4; TPR 2677) to place =2nd, albeit 6th on count back.
Her results have been more modest since then, including 6/9 at the 12th Bangkok Open (2012), costing her 16 Elo points, and then reached a nadir by placing last with 3/9 (-3 =6) at the 3rd Danzhou Tournament (2012). Neither her =3rd at the FIDE Women's Grand Prix Kazan (2012) with 7/11 nor her outright win at the Women Grand Prix Jermuk (2012) enabled her to regain any of her lost rating points, but nevertheless she won the 2011-12 Women's Grand Prix which entitles her to challenge for the Women's World Championship in 2013 since she lost her title in the 2012 World Women's Championship knockout tournament. Yifan represented China on board 1 of the Chess Olympiad (Women) (2012), and helped her team to win team silver (missing gold to Russia on tiebreak), and also picking up individual gold on board 1. 2012 finished with Hou crashing out of the FIDE Knock-out Women's World Championship (2012), losing to GM Monika (Bobrowska) Socko in the rapid game tiebreaker in round 2. As the winner of the 2011-2012 Grand Prix series, Hou won the right to challenge the winner of the Knockout Tournament and 2012 Women's World Champion, GM Anna Ushenina, for the women's title in 2013.
2013 started with Hou's inaugural participation in an open super-tournament, starting as the 14th and lowest seed in the category 20 Tata Steel (2013). After a string of early losses, she recovered well (especially when playing Black) to defeat current and previous 2700 players Anish Giri, Pentala Harikrishna and Ivan Sokolov to score 5.5/13 (+3 =5 -5) and a near 2700 performance to finish 10th, ahead of Fabiano Caruana, Erwin L'Ami and Sokolov. Seeded 4th, she came in at =4th (8th on tiebreak) with a relatively rating-neutral 5.5/11 (+3 =5 -3) result at the Chinese Championships (2013). Her participation in the Women Grand Prix Geneva (2013) in May 2013 has been her least successful to date, scoring only 5/11 and placing =8th out of 12, and shedding 22 rating points for the June 2013 rating period. In June, and presumably part of her preparation for her World Championship match with Ushenina, Hou played the Navara vs Yifan Hou, 2013 and drew all 4 classical games; however, after drawing the blitz tiebreakers 1-1 she won the Armageddon blitz tiebreaker. In July 2013, she was selected as one of the President's nominees to play in the World Cup (2013), where she lost to Latvian #1 Alexey Shirov in the tiebreaker of the first round. However, in the following month in September 2013, she played and won the Ushenina - Hou Women's World Championship (2013) by 5.5-1.5 (+4 =3), to regain her title as 13th Women's World Champion.
As a WFM, her rating topped 2500 in the January 2007 FIDE ratings before FIDE formally conferred her WGM title in late January 2007. Her results in the Aeroflot Open (2008) and the Isbank Ataturk Women Masters (2008) provided her with her first and second GM norms. She picked up her third GM norm in the World Junior Championship (2008) with a round to spare. Any lingering doubts about Yifan's GM norm from the Isbank Ataturk Masters were resolved when she acquired another GM norm upon defeating Koneru Humpy to reach the final of the Women's World Championship (2008) before losing the championship match against Alexandra Kosteniuk. In October 2012 she helped her team Cercle d'Echecs Monte-Carlo to win gold at the 28th European Club Cup (Women) (2012), and in the following year, she repeated that feat for the same team at the European Club Cup (Women) (2013). Hou easily won the FIDE Women's Grand Prix Khanty - Mansiysk (2014) with 8.5/11, with a round to spare. She scored a crushing 9/11 at the FIDE Women's Grand Prix Lopota (2014) and followed up with a strong 5/10 at the Biel (2014), placing =3rd a point behind the winner, and boosting her rating to the extent that she has reached the world's top 100, only the second woman to do so. In September 2014, she was =1st at the FIDE Women's Grand Prix Sharjah (2014). In December 2014, she played in the women's contingent of the chess section of the Mind Games events held in Beijing, placing 2nd with 5/7. She easily won the blitz portion of the event with 22.5/30, boosting her blitz rating to over 2700.
In 2015, she participated in her first open invitational super-tournament, namely Tata Steel (2015), and scored a rating-neutral 5/13. Soon afterwards she scored 7.5/10 to place 3rd at the Tradewise Gibraltar (2015), a point behind the winner Hikaru Nakamura and half a point behind the runner-up David Howell against whom she missed a winning variation to draw their final round game.
Rating and Ranking
Hou's highest rating to date was 2686 in April 2015 when she reached her highest world ranking so far at #59. She is now the #1 woman in the world. On 1 January 2015, she exited the Girls list, ending a domination of that division as world's #1 Girl (ie: female Junior U20) that started in January 2008, when she was 13, and lasted for 84 months.
References and Sources
* http://www.fide.com/component/conte... ** http://www.worldmindgames.net/en/ne...
Article about Hou being the youngest female GM: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail...; Live rating: http://www.2700chess.com/women; Wikipedia article: Hou Yifan