Hou Yifan – the youngest female grandmaster in history

12/8/2008 – In 1991 Judit Polgar became a grandmaster, at the age of 15 years, four months and 28 days – breaking Bobby Fischer's 1958 record of 15 years six months and one day. Now Judit has been surpassed, by a 14-year-old Chinese prodigy: Hou Yifan, born three years after Judit's GM award, has obtained her title at the age of 14 years, six months and two days. Congratulations, Yifan!

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Grandmaster Hou Yifan

Hou Yifan was born on February 27, 1994, in Xinghua, China. Her name, which is written 侯逸凡 in Chinese characters and Hóu Yìfán in Pinyin, is pronounced "Ho-ee? Fan". Chinese is a tonal language with pitch being used to distinguish different meanings. So you have to speak the first two syllables with a rising ton, as if you were asking a question. Also: friends call her Yifan, which is the equivalent of our first names.

In November 2008 Hou became the youngest ever female in history to qualify for the title of grandmaster. She did this at the age of 14 years 6 months 2 days, breaking the previous records set by Judit Polgar (15y 4m 28d) and Koneru Humpy (15y 1m 27d). We have added Hou to our list of chess prodigies, which now looks like this:

Youngest grandmasters in history

No.
 Player
Nat.
years
months
days
year
 Sergey Karjakin
UKR
12
7
0
2002
 Parimarjan Negi
IND
13
3
22
2006
 Magnus Carlsen
NOR
13
3
27
2004
 Bu Xiangzhi
CHN
13
10
13
1999
 Teimour Radjabov
AZE
14
0
14
2001
 Ruslan Ponomaryov 
UKR
14
0
17
1997
 Wesley So
PHI
14
1
28
2007
 Etienne Bacrot
FRA
14
2
0
1997
 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
14
4
0
2005
10 
 Peter Leko
HUN
14
4
22
1994
11 
 Hou Yifan
CHN
14
6
2
2008
12 
 Yuri Kuzubov
UKR
14
7
12
2004
13 
 Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son 
VIE
14
10
0
2004
14 
 Fabiano Caruana
ITA
14
11
20
2007
15 
 Koneru Humpy
IND
15
1
27
2002
16 
 Hikaru Nakamura
USA
15
2
19
2003
17 
 Pentala Harikrishna
IND
15
3
5
2001
18
 Judit Polgar
HUN
15
4
28
1991
19
 Alejandro Ramirez
CRI
15
5
14
2003
20
 Bobby Fischer
USA
15
6
1
1958

We must once again draw your attention to one of our first encounters with Hou Yifan. This was at the Three Arrows Cup in 2005, when the eleven-year-old untitled player, rated 2158, came equal 4-5th and drew the attention of our reporter.

At the time Ali Nihat Yazici, President of the Turkish Chess Federation, who was sending us pictures and stories from Jinan, wrote:

"As a journalist, president and chess person I must draw your attention to this young lady, Miss Hou Yifan. Take a good look at her – we are introducing you to a future women's world champion. Hou is just eleven years old, and her official rating is 2158. But her performance in Jinan was 2400. She is a great talent and I predict that she may soon become the youngest GM in the world. Not WGM, but GM!


Hou Yifan at the World Ladies in Jinan, April 2005

Our precognitive friend Ali Nihat got it right. Yifan is now the youngest GM in the world, and the youngest female GM in history. You can see her progress in the following chart:

Here are some pictures of the talented young lady:


Yifan portrayed by Fred Lucas at the Wijk aan Zee tournament in January this
year, where she had a performance of 2600 in the B Group


Exhausted: during the Atatürk Women's Tournament in Istanbul in March 2008...


... and in the final round. Hou won the tournament, a full point ahead of GM Pia Cramling


Yifan at the Women's World Championship in Nalchik, September 2008,
where she lost narrowly in the final to Russian GM Alexandra Kosteniuk

Nat. Name Rtng
G1
G2
G3
G4
Tot.
RUS Kosteniuk, Alexandra 2510
1
½
½
½
2.5
CHN Hou, Yifan 2557
0
½
½
½
1.5


The start of the final game in the Women's World Championship in Nalchik


Hou Yifan in Wijk aan Zee 2007, where she came fifth in the C Group


At the Chess Olympiad in Turin in 2006

Incidentally in the latest FIDE awards list tells us that two other young ladies have received the full GM title as well: Monika Socko of Poland und Nana Dzagnidze of Georgia. There are currently nineteen female players who hold the GM title (source: Wikipedia):

Player Country
born
award
age
World Champion rating
Nona Gaprindashvili Georgia 1941-05-03
1978
37
1962–1978  --
Maia Chiburdanidze Georgia 1961-01-17
1984
23
1978–1991 2550
Susan Polgar Hungary USA 1969-04-19
1991
21
1996–1999 2577
Judit Polgár Hungary 1976-07-23
1991
15
  2735
Xie Jun China 1970-10-30
1991
31
1991–96,1999–2001 2574
Pia Cramling Sweden 1963-04-23
1992
29
  2550
Zhu Chen China Qatar 1976-03-16
2001
25
2001–2004 2548
Koneru Humpy India 1987-03-31
2002
15
  2622
Antoaneta Stefanova Bulgaria 1979-04-19
2003
25
2004–2006 2560
Alexandra Kosteniuk Russia 1984-03-23
2004
20
2008–current 2540
Peng Zhaoqin Netherlands 1968-05-08
2004
36
  2472
Hoang Thanh Trang Hungary 1980-04-25
2007
27
  2493
Kateryna Lahno Ukraine 1989-12-27
2007
17
  2509
Xu Yuhua China 1976-10-29
2007
30
2006–2008 2517
Marie Sebag France 1986-10-15
2008
21
  2533
Zhao Xue China 1985-04-06
2008
23
  2530
Hou Yifan China 1994-02-27
2008
14
  2578
Nana Dzagnidze Georgia 1987-01-01
2008
21
  2503
Monika Socko Poland 1978-03-24
2008
30
  2505

Nona Gaprindashvili, the first female grandmaster, got her title for being a long-standing women's world champion. The first female to earn the title with full GM norms was Zsuzsa (Susan) Polgar in 1991.



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