19-Year-Old Regains Women's Chess Title in a Rout

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With a final rout of the reigning women's world chess champion, a 19-year-old grandmaster and former champion, Hou Yifan, regained the title on Friday in a match in Taizhou, China.

Ms. Hou dominated the match, winning four games and drawing three. She was never in trouble against her opponent, Anna Ushenina, 28, a grandmaster from Ukraine.

In a telephone interview an hour after the last game, Ms. Hou said that she had not thought about how well things were going during the match. "I just went step by step," she said, adding, "in each game, there were difficult moments."

By winning, Ms. Hou earned 120,000 euros, about $160,000, while Ms. Ushenina received 80,000 euros, or about $106,000.

Ms. Hou was the heavy favorite. She went into the match ranked No. 2 in the world, while Ms. Ushenina's ranking was No. 17.

Ms. Hou won the title in 2010, when she was 16, and defended her title in a match in 2011. But she lost in the second round of a 64-player elimination championship tournament last year that was won by Ms. Ushenina.

Ms. Hou indirectly criticized the tournament system as a means for selecting a champion. She said there were more "coincidences" that could affect the outcome in an elimination tournament. Instead, the system used by the men -- in which there is a candidates' tournament featuring many top players that produces a challenger, followed by a match against the champion -- was "more fair."

In Game 7, Ms. Hou was White and achieved a small but definite edge out of the opening. Then Ms. Ushenina, as she had in previous games, began to use up most of her allotted time. (The players were given 90 minutes to make their first 40 moves, with 30 seconds added to their available time after each move; if they used up their time, they forfeited.)

As the amount of time she had left dwindled, Ms. Ushenina started making mistakes, and Ms. Hou took the opportunity to start an attack against Ms. Ushenina's king. After 40 moves, Ms. Ushenina resigned, as she had to give up her queen to prevent checkmate.

Though Ms. Hou makes a good living as a professional chess player, she is also a student in her second year at Beijing University, studying international relations. "I am trying to really learn something" other than chess, she said.

She said she was a full-time student and did not have "any special privileges" that allowed her to avoid fulfilling her course requirements. Now that the championship is over, she is going back to school before she competes in the European Club Cup next month in Greece. She has to cram over the next three weeks for exams.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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