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    1948 World Chess Championship 1962 Candidates 2.c3 Sicilian 2.f4 Sicilian 2011 European Team Championship 2011 Russian Championship 2012 Capablanca Memorial 2012 Chess Olympiad 2012 European Women's Championship 2012 London Chess Classic 2012 U.S. Junior Championship 2012 U.S. Women's Championship 2012 US Championship 2012 Women's World Chess Championship 2012 World Rapid and Blitz Championships 2013 Alekhine Memorial 2013 Beijing Grand Prix 2013 European Club Cup 2013 European Team Championship 2013 FIDE World Cup 2013 Kings Tournament 2013 London Chess Classic 2013 Russian Championship 2013 Tal Memorial 2013 U.S. Championship 2013 Women's World Championship 2013 World Blitz Championship 2013 World Championship 2013 World Rapid Championship 2013 World Team Championship 2014 Capablanca Memorial 2014 Chess Olympiad 2014 London Chess Classic 2014 Petrosian Memorial 2014 Rapid & Blitz World Championship 2014 Russian Team Championship 2014 Sinquefield Cup 2014 Tigran Petrosian Memorial 2014 U.S. Championship 2014 U.S. Open 2014 Women's World Championship 2014 World Championship 2014 World Junior Championships 2014 World Rapid Championship 2015 U.S. Championship 2015 Women's World Championship KO 2016 World Championship 22014 Sinquefield Cup 22014 U.S. Championship 60 Minutes A. 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    Entries in Hou Yifan (36)

    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.

    Wednesday
    Oct222014

    Hou Yifan Wins Corsica

    After struggling to get through her first three matches, in each case needing to win a game just to stay alive, Hou Yifan won the final match, against Sergey Fedorchuk, 2-0 to win the Corsican Circuit. In a second, distinct irony, the move that won game two was an outright blunder. Granted, it only brought the game from trivially won to winning with a little work, and even a draw would have been enough to win the match. Still, it was a blunder, and the interesting thing about it is that it displays a typical kind of chess illusion - have a look here for the details.

    Monday
    Oct202014

    Corsica Finals: Hou Yifan vs. Sergey Fedorchuk

    Well, sports fans, Monday was a bad day for those of us who are hoping that Viswanathan Anand will win or at least be competitive against Magnus Carlsen in their coming world championship match. It would be wrong to draw too sweeping a conclusion from his ouster in the Corsica semi-finals at the hands of Sergey Fedorchuk, but it certainly doesn't lend itself to any optimistic scenarios either. Fedorchuk won the first rapid game with Black, and then drew from a position of strength with the white pieces - and he could easily have played for a win in that game too.

    In the previous round Anand had blanked Pavel Tregubov 2-0 while Fedorchuk had struggled to overcome Csaba Balogh. They drew their rapid games, and the first blitz game was also drawn. Fedorchuk had White in the second blitz game but no advantage, but when Balogh went crazy with 17...Qh5? and 19...e5 he was quickly crushed.

    In the other half of the draw, Hou Yifan made things as difficult for herself as possible before qualifying for the finals. As she did yesterday, she began her quarterfinal match with Martyn Kravtsiv by losing with the white pieces. As yesterday, she won the rematch and then won the blitz playoff 2-0. In the semi-final round she unexpectedly played Robert Ruck, who had defeated second seed Ivan Saric 1.5-.5, winning the second game with the pieces.

    In the Hou-Ruck match Hou broke the pattern by winning the first game with White, but the overall pattern of needing to suffer continued intact. She lost the second game, and then lost the first blitz game to boot - both losses were with Black. She won the second blitz game, and then it was time for an Armageddon game. She had White and five minutes against Ruck's four minutes and draw odds, and she came through with a good win.

    Tuesday will see the battle of the 2673s, and the silver lining for Anand is that he gets an additional day of preparation for the Carlsen match.

    Sunday
    Oct192014

    Corsica Underway With Viswanathan Anand and Hou Yifan

    In Corsica a rapid (15' + 3") knockout event is underway. Viswanathan Anand and Hou Yifan were invited, while the other 14 players earned their spots by their performance in a qualifying tournament immediately preceding the k.o. Anand is the top seed by a considerable margin, Ivan Saric (2678) is second, and then Hou Yifan and Sergey Fedorchuk are the third and fourth seeds, respectively, both sporting ratings of 2673. (Of course, they should use their rapid ratings rather than their classical ones, but if the players don't mind there's no reason why I should.)

    In these events the pairings always begin with the top seed playing the bottom one, #2 playing the second from the bottom seed, and so on. At the start the top players are generally huge favorites, but although Anand easily dispatched his 2376-rated IM opponent 2-0 and Saric also won 2-0, both Hou and Fedorchuk opened their matches by losing with White against mid-2400 rated opposition! Not to fear: both won the rematch and then blanked their opponents 2-0 in the added blitz games.

    The top four won't play each other tomorrow, but if they all win in the quarter-finals Anand will play Fedorchuk and Saric will play Hou on Tuesday.

    Saturday
    Sep062014

    Hou Yifan Ties For First In Sharjah, Wins Grand Prix Series

    Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun finished with identical scores of 8.5/11 in the Sharjah Women's Grand Prix, allowing the former to win the overall series ahead of Humpy Koneru. Humpy needed to finish this event tied or better with Hou, but had a disappointing tournament and finished three full points behind.

    This means that Hou Yifan will be in a world championship match in 2015, either as the champion (if she wins the women's knockout world championship this October, in which case Humpy Koneru will be the challenger thanks to her second place in the Grand Prix series) or as the challenger (in which case Humpy is out of luck, unless she happened to win the KO).

    As for the rating hunt, Hou finished at 2667.2, leaving her eight points behind Judit Polgar (once it's official and gets rounded down). Sharjah co-winner Ju Wenjun even managed to pass Humpy Koneru for third on the women's list, thanks to the enormous combined swing of 41 points.