Chinese chess master Hou Yifan always remains humble and vigilant. PROVIDED TO TEENS
In 2020, people around the world were impressed by the chess prodigy Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit. However, there’s a similar “queen of chess” in real life – 28-year-old Hou Yifan.
Hou started playing chess at 5 years old in 1999. At that time, her parents took Hou to try different brain games at a training center. “With the interesting shapes, I was attracted by the chess and decided to take it up,” said Hou.
After playing for two years as a hobby, Hou met her coach – grandmaster Tong Yuanming – and took up professional training.
“Chess is a mind game full of uncertainties. Even when there are only five or six pieces left on the board, you cannot calculate all the variations,” said Hou. “So instead of too much focus on theories, we should rely more on practice and strategy.”
Learning strategies from previous competitions and practicing chess quickly became her daily life.
Luckily, her efforts were soon rewarded. At 13, she became China’s youngest ever National Women's Champion and then became the youngest chess champion in the world at 16.
Although a famous chess star known all over the globe, Hou always stayed vigilant. “I'm happy to win these titles, but I know this is a coin with two sides,” Hou added. “As you gain public attention, your faults are amplified. So I should shrug the honors off and stay motivated to keep improving.”
Having focused on international chess for a long time, Hou then decided to study in the college. In 2012, she studied international relations at Peking University and then went to the University of Oxford.
“I have to know more,” she said. “I have to open my eyes to see the whole world.”
Now, the 28-year-old has become a teacher at Shenzhen University. She wants to “integrate the methods she learned in China and the West and allow international chess to reach more young Chinese people”.