Monday, January 31, 2011

How Hou Yifan Did It

From The Times of India
How Hou Yifan became world's youngest ever women's chess champion
ANI, Jan 31, 2011, 03.12am IST

LONDON: Hou Yifan, who has become the youngest ever women's world chess champion at the age of just 16, is a typical Chinese teenager who has worked almost unimaginably hard to make the most of her talents and opportunities.

But asked the sacrifices required for her daughter's success, Hou's mother, a 42-year-old nurse, chooses to stress the ordinariness of her daughter's start in the provincial city of Xinghua, 200 miles north of Shanghai where her father was an official in the local justice department.

"We weren't rich, but we weren't poor either, but you will have heard of China's one-child policy, and like every other parent we were always thinking of ways of to improve our child's development," the Telegraph quoted her mom Wang Qian as saying.

"There was no dream or great plan, but one day when Yifan was aged five a neighbour's older child taught her how to play draughts (checkers). After only being taught once, Yifan was winning easily against the older child, so we decided to pick on board-games to broaden her thinking.

"We took her to a local games club but she always showed fascination in the Western pieces, the horses and the castles.

"So we decided that chess was the one for her. But back then it was only about broadening her mind, and helping her education, we never dreamed we would come so far," her mom said.

By the age of 7, aided by the extra night shifts worked by her mother to free up time to guide her daughter, Hou had already outgrown her local chess club in Xinghua and the family moved north to Shandong province where a bigger club helped with coaching and living expenses.

At that age she attended a full day at school, came home to complete her homework and then at 5pm went to played chess, sometimes for five or six hours at a stretch, although Hou herself says it never seemed that long.

"I had such an interest in the game, a passion you could say, that meant I never got bored with it. I never tried to get out of playing. I think that is what has helped me succeed, I always wanted to keep playing, to keep learning more," Hou said.

At just 16, Miss Hou is already the third-ranked woman player in the world with many predicting that she will continue to surpass the achievements of the great Hungarian woman player Judit Polgar.

But Hou's sights are set higher than becoming the world's best female player, with ambitions to take on the very best male players, emulating her hero Bobby Fischer whose games against the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky she studies for her own training.

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