From The Pittsburgh Tribune Review
CMU student aims to be chess queen
By Craig Smith
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
A Carnegie Mellon University doctoral student is hoping to return to Pittsburgh as the women's world chess champion -- if she can play David to her opponent's Goliath.
Lufei Ruan, 23, a student at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business who is playing for China, beat Xue Zhao, also of China, to reach the finals at the world championships in Hatay, Turkey, on Saturday. She's playing another Chinese player, Hou Yifan, 16, for the title this week.
Their first match Monday ended in a draw, which some observers count as a good sign for Ruan. But Yifan struck back Tuesday and led in the four-game match.
"Her nerves are very good," Alexander Shabalov, a four-time U.S. chess champion who lives in Squirrel Hill, said of Ruan, who defeated defending champion Alexandra Kosteniuk on her way to the finals. Ruan declined to be interviewed.
Strong nerves are needed in the high-stakes game, said Carnegie Mellon doctoral student Iryna Zenyuk, 24, a women's international master from Ukraine.
According to World Chess Federation rankings, Yifan is No. 3 in the world with 2,591 points; Ruan is rated No. 21 with 2,480 points.
"I would say Ruan is probably considered the underdog," said chessmaster Jerry Meyers, scholastic director of the Pittsburgh Chess Club in Squirrel Hill. "(Yifan) is young, but she's amazed a lot of people."
"She really has done the Cinderella story," chessmaster Bruce Leverett of Mt. Lebanon said about Ruan. "Yifan is one of the top prodigies in the world in either sex."
Although Pittsburgh counts other chess champions among its residents, Leverett said it's rare to have this kind of talent in the city. Hans Berliner came to Pittsburgh, for example, after winning his correspondence world championship.
"It doesn't happen. ... She's the second-strongest player (behind Shabalov) in Pittsburgh now," Leverett said of Ruan.
Ruan leads the Carnegie Mellon team that plays in the Pittsburgh league, Zenyuk said.