Arrabal translates Hou Yifan interview

5/23/2016 – Fernando Arrabal Terán is a playwright, screenwriter, film director, novelist and poet, last survivor among the “three avatars of modernism” (New York Times theatre critic Mel Gussow). Arrabal has a strong interest in chess and writes a column on it for the French weekly L’Express. He has reproduced our interview depicting Yifan as Joan of Arc and himself as Pan, the mythological Greek shepherd god of the nymphs.

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Before we come to Arrabal here is a brief reaction to the Hou Yifan interview by India's second highest ranked player (and number ten in the world women's rankings), Harkika Dronavalli:

India's second highest ranked female player (and World women’s online blitz champion) GM Harika Dronavalli, said she could empathise with Yifan, whom she has met across the chessboard on several occasions. “It would be nice for us women to have a World championship cycle like that of the men, but I think it would be difficult for FIDE to find sponsors for that,” the World No. 10 told The Hindu over phone from Hyderabad on Saturday.

“But I am a bit disappointed by her decision. Women’s chess will be less competitive without her. I would like to win the World championship in which Yifan is a contender.”

For that to happen, FIDE would have to agree to Yifan’s proposal.

In La Règle du Jeau Fernando Arrabal, playwright, screenwriter, film director, novelist and poet, has published a translation of our interview with Hou Yifan in French. For the interview he has made a collage depicting the Women's World Champion as Jeanne d'Arc – and himself as Pan – in Greek mythology the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, companion of the nymphs.

Read the full Arrabal translation in French here

Fernando Arrabal

Fernando Arrabal Terán is a playwright, screenwriter, film director, novelist and poet, born in Melilla, Spain, but settled in France since 1955; he describes himself as “desterrado”, or “half-expatriate, half-exiled”.

Arrabal has directed seven full-length feature films; he has published more than 100 plays, 14 novels, 800 poetry collections, chapbooks, and artist’s books. His complete plays have been published in a number of languages – the New York Times theatre critic Mel Gussow has called Arrabal the last survivor among the “three avatars of modernism”. A friend of Andy Warhol and Tristan Tzara, Arrabal spent three years as a member of André Breton’s surrealist group.

Arrabal has a strong interest in chess and has attended many chess tournaments. For over thirty years he has written a column on chess for the French weekly L’Express.


And here is a Chinese translation of our interveiw – and here a Google retranslation back into English.


  • Why Hou Yifan has dropped out of the cycle
    5/20/2016 – At fourteen she was the youngest female player ever to gain the title of grandmaster, and at sixteen she became the youngest Women's World Champion in history. She has won the title four times and is the reigning champion. Now Hou Yifan, 100 points stronger than any of her colleagues, has abandoned the Women's Championship cycle. She tells us why and calls for a reform of the system. Her proposal is amazingly simple.

  • Interview with Hou Yifan
    4/2/2016 – In March Hou Yifan, number one on the women's ranking list, regained the world title, which she had lost when she did not take part in the knock-out World Championship the year before. In an interview with Dagobert Kohlmeyer the World Champion criticises the mode of the Women's World Championship and reveals that her proposals for a different system were made in vain.

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bachma1 bachma1 5/24/2016 04:34
I just wondering if FIDE can sponsor for women chess champion exactly like men's except less funding, (due to funding limitation); It will take sometimes to find sponsors, just a thought.
ubernomics ubernomics 5/24/2016 02:33
I'd suggest boxing as another example. Boxing has at least three main title-conferring bodies. IBF, WBA, (and I don't remember the other alphabet soup). The titles help promote the event.

Every few years, a "unification bout" is held that sells at another level. And of course, countless weight classes. Which is partly for public consumption.

To reiterate, Hou Yifan might reconsider approaching (top-level) chess as a business, the FIDE knockout system as a business contract proposal, where the paper title constitutes part of the prize (that bestows public honor), and is directed at the general public (rather than at the chess audience, alone).

She is overestimating how many people want to bid $500,000 to watch her play ten games with Harika or Lahno. And the $1,000,000 for the sixty-four player joke of a candidates match, that produces her challenger. (Any chess purist who wants more "purity" - that is, more players, longer matches - understands that "more" also costs [probably much] more.) No player outside the top ten has ever been a contender, anyhow. And at this point in world history, it is unlikely that the cycle will discover an unknown 2050-rated girl from outback of Tasmania, able to suddenly play 2600.

IMO, in general, if we want to be purist about the world championship (overall or women's) as search process for the "best player", it need not extend outside the top ten. Oftentimes, the strongest contender is not in serious dispute (e.g., during Kasparov's era, it was Karpov, clearly; then Anand or Kramnik. Short was an acceptable amusement, but not serious. There was no need to try Kamsky or Shirov, let's say, though they reached as high as number four.) At the moment, only an unretired Judit would pose a plausible match for Hou (imo, if Judit has maintained herself, and loses the rust, she be anywhere from a slight-to-relatively-heavy favorite. She could still be 2730 strength, for all we know.) A Hou match against any of the other nine girls in the top ten aren't really serious.

Again, it might not be another ten years until a serious contender to Hou Yifan shows up. No girl age ten and above who is astoundingly, "off the charts" good - at any rate, none on the radar for age 13 and above, at which point such things unavoidably appear. So, we should have at least another five years of Hou unquestioned dominance of the #1 spot.
CostaMaison3 CostaMaison3 5/23/2016 05:27
We have two World Chess Championships WCC, Women and Open but no "Men". However, we cannot compare the the WWCC with the WCC, for the following reasons:

1- The title holder of WCC has no interest to get the title of WWCC. (if Hou Yifan is the world champion under the Open, then the title under WWCC would have no meaning for her nor for the audience.

2- The world champion under the WCC has huge influence over the game. Usually they add new theory to the game (like Fischer and Kasparov with in the Sicilian defense and Kramnik in the Berlin) Players will follow his openings, techniques, playing styles and sometimes the habits. Women are still behind in this.

3- The purpose of the match tournament is to find someone who can break the new theory brought by the world champion, his openings, techniques, etc. When Carlsen won the title J Polgar said, we have a new chess era.

3- The average live ELO of the top 10 is 2795 whereas the average live ELO of the top 10 women is 2556 (as of 23 May 2016). How many of you will follow a number of complicated candidate tournaments and lengthy in term of time periods with an average rating of 2556?

With average rating of 2556, the speculation factor is very important to attract more audience. The knockout system is a good choice in this case but it is not good for Hou Yifan because her chances are less.
amarpan amarpan 5/23/2016 03:44
Hou Yifan must stop playing in women's tournaments all together. It will make her chess more interesting and chess be more interesting to her.
Denix Denix 5/23/2016 02:00
27 year old? The main issue by FIDE is finding sponsors that will support Yifan's proposal. It would be too cruel if the Chinese Federation stay idle by not sponsoring such an event, initially.