Hou Yifan in Der Spiegel

by ChessBase
4/18/2018 – The 24-year old former Women's World Champion, in an interview with Spiegel Online's Christian Gödecke, explains her current plans for the future, as she shifts her focus in the wake of her impending Rhodes Scholar status at Oxford University and says, "I would prefer not to distinguish between men and women players". | Photo: Macauley Peterson

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Translated highlights, with kind permission of Spiegel Online

An interview with Christian Gödecke

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Ms. Hou, you are the world’s best women chess player. What is different when you play against the best men?

Hou: I would prefer not to distinguish between men and women players. Let’s call it general playing strength. The moves of the world’s best players are more precise, there are fewer mistakes. I learn a lot when playing against the very best.

How far do you want to go in chess? 

Well, first of all: I once definitely hoped to play better than I do play right now. My next goal is to reach an Elo-rating of 2700 and to play much more consistently. But during the last years there have been — let’s say — distractions. My studies, plus ideas and plans that are related to chess but not related to playing chess.

Hou Yifan speaks quietly, it almost is a measured whispering. She chooses her words carefully and even after a long digression she always returns to the original topic in the end. People who have known her for a long time like to tell that one can have wonderful conversations about chess with the 24-year-old. But even better conversations about everything else.

What can chess give to people?

I believe that chess can strengthen the personality and can help to learn to cope with mistakes. It also conveys education. Focus.
In September Hou will go to Oxford to undertake her Masters in Public Policy. This weekend she travels to the USA, where she will begin an internship in Silicon Valley, California. 

If one looks at all the paths you now walk it is hard to imagine that chess is still number one in your life.

Number one is family and friends. Chess has been very important in my life and for my way. And it will continue to be, just as my studies, and now this [new opportunity]. 

How will this work? You say yourself that the energy of an individual is limited.

I always try to see things positively — I learned that from my parents. I do not worry that something could go wrong. Every step and every experience is important, and will one day pay off even if you don’t see this immediately.

Is it actually true that you still mainly play chess with your talent?

No, I actually work on my chess. Though I cannot say that I did a great job in regard to that (laughs). I know that I should train harder and hopefully I will find the time. I already have to be much more careful in selecting the tournaments in which I play. Here, I prefer the real top-level tournaments, because of the challenge. But for these tournaments, I do have to be really prepared otherwise a disaster will happen.

As in Wijk aan Zee when you did not win a single one of your thirteen games and finished last with 2½ points?

Precisely, I admittedly played this tournament without preparation. It really was a tough experience. And a lesson.

The full interview (in German) is available from Spiegel.de
Translation: Johannes Fischer

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