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    Entries in Hou Yifan (40)

    Saturday
    Nov212015

    Caruana Wins the Showdown in St. Louis, Hou Wins the Undercard

    Slightly old news, yes, but compensation is forthcoming. From Friday the 12th through Monday the 15th of this month the top two players in the U.S., world #5 Hikaru Nakamura and world #6 Fabiano Caruana faced off in a four day, four stage match called The Showdown in St. Louis for a hefty prize fund. ($60k for the winner, $40k for the "loser".)

    Day 1 saw them play a Basque match, i.e. a two-board simul against each other. Those games were played with a classical time control, and while Caruana had good winning chances in both Nakamura managed to hold the draw in each case.

    Day 2 was the best day of the event for Nakamura, who won the Chess960 games (played at a rapid time control) by a 2.5-1.5 score. He lost the first game, won the next two and finished with a draw. All the games in the match were weighted equally, so after two days Nakamura led 3.5-2.5.

    Day 3 was what Jennifer Shahade aptly called "rapid rapid" - game 15'+10" - and in this stage Caruana took over. Nakamura was winning the first game, but by the end was fortunate to draw. Caruana won the second game when Nakamura made an astounding, beginner's error in the opening of game two. The next two games were similar: Nakamura was very close to winning game three, which was eventually drawn, while Caruana won another (relatively) clean game in round 4 to close out the day with a 3-1 lead in the stage and a 5.5-4.5 overall lead.

    Day 4 saw the players go at it in an eight-game blitz match, and while one would normally expect Nakamura to be the favorite it was Caruana who dominated. There were lots of errors, as you'd expect from a blitz match - especially on day four of a tough event - and Caruana won the stage with a 4.5-3.5 victory that included a last-round loss from what had been an equal-to-better position almost throughout. Te final match score was 10-8 in Caruana's favor.

    In the undercard, Parimarjan Negi and Hou Yifan played the same schedule against each other, and Hou Yifan was the dominant victor, winning by an 11-7 score. That's even more impressive, considering she lost both of the Basque games on day 1, but after that she steamrolled Negi, winning the Chess960 3.5-.5 (Negi drew the fourth game), the rapid 3-1 (Negi won game 2), and the blitz 4.5-3.5. Hou earned $30k, Negi $20k.

    The latter match was quite entertaining, and certainly of greater theoretical interest as the players went after each other in one Sicilian after another. However, and possibly unfortunately, I've undertaken to offer comments to all 14 of the orthodox chess games (for one thing, I couldn't find the Chess960 games) in the Caruana-Nakamura contest, and you can replay them all here.

    Thursday
    Oct152015

    Nakamura-Caruana in November, Plus an Undercard, Plus the European Team Championship

    It looks like Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana will engage in a sort of tetrathlon in St. Louis next month. From the 12th through the 15th they will compete against each other in Chess960 (4 games at 20' + 10"), rapid (4 15' + 10" games), blitz (8 games at 3' + 2") and blindfold (not sure about the details). The games in each discipline count equally, and the overall winner of the match gets $60,000 while the loser gets $40,000.

    Meanwhile, there will be a concurrent match between Hou Yifan and Indian star (and Stanford student) Parimarjan Negi. I believe (but am not positive) that they will follow the same format.

    It looks entertaining, though chess fans won't be hurting for excitement as the European Team Championship also starts November 12, and includes Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Levon Aronian, Alexander Grischuk and many, many more superstars of the game.

    Thursday
    Oct152015

    Hou Yifan Wins Monte Carlo Grand Prix

    She had already clinched first place in the Women's Grand Prix in Monte Carlo with a round to go, and now it's official. She drew her last-round game (with some effort), as did Mariya Muzychuk, while Humpy Koneru lost to Anna Muzychuk. Hou finished with 9/11, with (Mariya) Muzychuk and Humpy two points behind.

    Thursday
    Oct152015

    Hou Yifan Clinches First in the Monte Carlo Grand Prix

    It was a tight race for a while between women's #1 Hou Yifan, women's world champion Mariya Muzychuk, and women's #2 Humpy Koneru at the Women's Grand Prix tournament in Monte Carlo. Emphasis on was. After her round two loss to Humpy she turned on the after-burners and has scored 7.5 points from her last 8 games, good for 8.5/10 overall and a 1.5 point lead over Humpy and a 2 point lead over the aforementioned Muzychuk. In round 10 Hou crushed Muzychuk with Black, clinching overall tournament victory with a round to go and making a statement in advance of their world championship match next March. I'm not sure what Hou's TPR is in the tournament, but she has gained about a dozen rating points so far and is up to 2685 on the live rating list. She's still 50 points short of Judit Polgar's all-time record, but Hou is only 21 and still seems to be improving. (Polgar didn't hit her peak rating until she was almost 30, so there is still time.)

    Thursday
    Feb052015

    Gibraltar, Final Round: Nakamura First, Howell Second (Updated)

    Entering the final round of the Gibraltar Masters Open Hikaru Nakamura led with 8/9, half a point ahead of David Howell and a point ahead of Pentala Harikrishna, Hou Yifan, Nikita Vitiugov and Axel Bachmann. Nakamura had White against Harikrishna, Hou had White against Howell, and Vitiugov had White against Bachmann.

    The last pairing was the first to finish, a 30-move draw that put Vitiugov and Bachmann out of the running for first. The other two games went a long time, and for a while a playoff between Nakamura and Howell seemed a real possibility. Howell was definitely better against Hou, while Nakamura's edge against Harikrishna was relatively slight.

    The tables turned against Howell, who missed his chances and then tried too hard to avoid the looming draw. He nearly succeeded in avoiding that draw, too, but not the way he intended. Hou was winning, but 45.g5?? let Howell escape. Had Hou won, she would have taken clear second and won £16,000 prize; instead, she "only" won £15,000 for being the top female finisher. (You can replay that game, with my analysis of the ending, here.) Soon after they finished, Nakamura made a little slip in the drawn rook ending that allowed Harikrishna to achieve the draw instantly, and the American finished with a cool £20,000 payday.

    As of this writing, the size of the tie for third place remains undetermined. Behind Nakamura's 8.5 and Howell's 8 there's a large group of 7.5 pointers. So far, there's 

    • Pentala Harikrishna
    • Hou Yifan
    • Nikita Vitiugov
    • Axel Bachmann
    • Veselin Topalov (who crushed Mateusz Bartel with Black)
    • Maxim Matlakov (who very speedily defeated Stefan Kuijpers, likewise with the black pieces)
    • Baskaran Adhiban (another speedy winner with Black; his victim was Ivan Cheparinov)
    • Dennis Wagner (who won with White against Eduardo Iturrizaga Bonelli. Wagner is an IM, but surely not for long.) 

    One more player could join their ranks and that's Wei Yi, who is trying to squeeze out a win in a queen ending against Ruben Felgaer. Right now he is winning with best play, but after 10 straight days and six hours' play there are no guarantees. (You can follow the game here.)

    **UPDATE** Wei Yi did in fact win, joining the nine-way tie for 3rd-11th. He finished the tournament rated 2706.1, making him officially the youngest-ever 2700-rated player in chess history.

    Of U.S. interest: Daniel Naroditsky could have joined the big tie for third with a win, but a last round draw with Dmitry Jakovenko is hardly a bad result, and he gained some money and a pile of rating points with his score of 7/10. Aleks Lenderman and Kayden Troff both scored 6.5, and Irina Krush scored 6. Unfortunately, her last-round victory came at the expense of another American, John Watson. After seven round Watson was in great shape with 5 points, but he finished with a bit of a thump, losing his last three. Even so, he gained a few points with his final score of 5/10, which was not the case for the United States's Rip Van Winkle - Jim Tarjan - who also finished with five points. After 30 years off he's going to have to take a few lumps.

    Back to general interest: John Saunders just tweeted this list of players who achieved title norms in Gibraltar; congratulations to those players as well.

    Friday
    Jan302015

    Gibraltar, Round 3 Highlights: 13 Lead, Including Youngest-Ever 2700 Wei Yi

    There are now only 13 3-0 scores in the current installment of the Masters section of the Gibraltar Chess Festival, and I will focus on five of them in this post: Hikaru Nakamura, Pendyala (or Pentala or even just "P.") Harikrishna, Wei Yi, Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun.

    Nakamura defeated Tamir Nabaty in good technical style - a la Carlsen, one might say, though Nakamura was adept at winning such games before Magnus Carlsen took over the chess world. As a result he is currently the highest-rated three-pointer, and if he wins tomorrow/today against Nils Grandelius he will pass Vladimir Kramnik to reach the #8 spot in the world. He is current 2.1 points behind him, and 6.6 points behind the new American #1, Wesley So.

    Harikrishna made it to 3-0 by winning a spectacular game against Ioan-Cristian Chirila, featuring an interesting pawn sac that may just refute Chirila's (probably unintended) novelty on move 8. Harikrishna will play Michael Roiz in round 4.

    Wei Yi is the real top story, as his victory against Bela Khotenashvili brought him to 2701.7 on the live list, making him the youngest player in chess history to break the 2700 barrier. The previous record-holder? Magnus Carlsen. Wei Yi, who just last week won the Challengers group at Wijk aan Zee, is just 15, and will not turn 16 until June 2. Next up for him: Ju Wenjun - about whom more a bit later.

    Hou Yifan consolidated her epochal achievement with another win, this time over Qatar GM Mohammed Al-Sayed. Now she's 2678.1, and will face Indian GM Babu M. R. Lilith in round 4.

    Finally, the women's #5 player, Ju Wenjun (like Wei Yi and Hou Yifan, she is from China), reached her 3-0 score by drubbing the 18-year-old Hungarian superstar Richard Rapport. That was a very big win for her, and now she'll get another 2700 as her reward, her countryman Wei Yi.

    The five games can be replayed here (sans notes), but for those of you who subscribe to ChessLecture.com I think I'm going to record a video of the Harikrishna game early next week (I don't know how long it will take before it's posted, though - probably another week or two after that).

    Thursday
    Jan292015

    Gibraltar, Round 2: Hou Yifan, The New Women's #1

    Back to chess. It "only" took 26 years, but there is at long last someone other than Judit Polgar atop the rating list - at least the live rating list. (Whether this becomes official depends on how the tournament ends.) That person, of course, is women's world champion Hou Yifan, whose rating has been very close to Polgar's for months, even before the latter's retirement, but has only now surpassed it. Polgar retired with a rating of 2675, and with her second-round win in Gibraltar, Hou's rating is now 2675.2. Not a huge margin, to be sure, but all the same she has done what no other woman has done since 1989!

    While it is a milestone, it's one she doesn't seem overly impressed by it - or at least didn't prior to achieving it. She addresses this topic pretty early in this interview, from the antepenultimate round of Wijk aan Zee:

    Wednesday
    Dec172014

    World Mind Games Finish: Nepomniachtchi, Hou Yifan "Basque" in Glory (Updated)

    (Thank you, thank you; I'll be here all week.) The SportAccord World Mind Games concluded today, and the final stage of the chess competition was won by Ian Nepomniachtchi on the men's side and Hou Yifan on the women's. This last stage was the "Basque" tournament, a five double-round Swiss with each double round with each participant playing a pair of games simultaneously against the same opponent, one with each color.

    Both Nepomniachtchi and Hou went undefeated and won their respective sections by a point and a half. "Nepo" scored 7.5/10 while Teimour Radjabov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov all wound up with 6. Radjabov won the silver and Vachier-Lagrave added a bronze to his silver medals in rapid & blitz. Alexander Grischuk won both the rapid & blitz events, but only scored 5.5 points here to finish tied for 5th-7th (out of 16), 6th on tiebreak.

    In the women's section Hou's score was a dominant 8.5/10, and this time there was no race with Valentina Gunina, who came in 9th with 50%. Alexandra Kosteniuk came in second with 7 points, and Zhao Xue took third on tiebreak with 6 points to beat out Antoaneta Stefanova for the bronze.

    The event produced many interesting games for chess fans, and since there aren't any more major events until the Tata Steel tournament (Wijk aan Zee) January 9, you've got a little extra time to catch up on all of them in between Christmas and Hanukah celebrations!

    UPDATE:

    (1) I see Chess24 used the same lame joke for their title as well. It's hard to resist!

    (2) Also from the Chess24 piece: fans of quick play will only have to suffer for 48 hours, as the European Rapid & Blitz championship starts on Friday.

    (3) Actually, there's no need to suffer at all if you want to see top-level play, as the final stage of season 7 of the TCEC is underway, with the latest versions of Komodo and Stockfish duking it out once again for silicon supremacy. Komodo dominated the earlier stages while Stockfish looked shaky, but after seven games Stockfish leads 4-3. "Only" 57 games to go.

     

    Monday
    Dec152014

    Grischuk Wins World Mind Games Rapid & Blitz; Gunina & Hou Yifan Split the Women's Titles

    The SportAccord World Mind Games is 2/3 of the way in, and so far it has been a success for two men and two women. Alexander Grischuk won both the rapid and the blitz competitions, with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave coming in second in both events. On the ladies' side Valentina Gunina won the rapid event while Hou Yifan came in second, and they switched positions in the blitz. Next up for the last two days, the "Basque" competition, wherein the competitors play two simultaneous games with their partners, one with each color.

    Tuesday
    Nov252014

    Kasparov and Hou Yifan on the Carlsen-Anand Match

    Their comments are far blander than Caruana's, but when a world champion speaks it's still generally worth a look.