Hou Yifan youngest-ever full professor at Shenzhen University

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
7/14/2020 – Four-time women’s world champion and current highest-rated woman player in the world Hou Yifan has become the youngest-ever full professor at the University of Shenzhen. The 26-year-old is now a professor at the School of Physical Education where she will be heading the institution’s chess program. Another great achievement for one of the most talented chess players in the circuit! | Photo: mp.weixin.qq.com

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Yet another record

In 2006, at the age of 12, Hou Yifan participated in her first Women’s World Championship, reaching round 3 of the 64-player knockout tournament. Four years later, she would become the youngest-ever women’s world champion, beating her compatriot Ruan Lufei in the final in Hatay, Turkey.

These are only two instances of Hou breaking records. Just to name a few similar achievements, she is also the youngest-ever female player to get a GM title, the youngest-ever Chinese women’s champion and one of only three female players to have joined the top 100 of the world ranking — legends Maia Chiburdanidze and Judit Polgar are the other two.

Hou YifanBut the extremely talented, unassuming Chinese star always fought to develop her talent not only on the chessboard but also elsewhere. As she told ESPN back in 2017:

I want my life to be rich and colorful, not narrow. I knew [enrolling to university] would impact my chess, but that’s how I wanted to live my life.

Hou studied International Relations at the prestigious Peking University, and later showed her talent in academia by getting a Rhodes Scholarship at the  Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford University.

In the meantime, she got great results at some top-notch chess tournaments, getting second places at the strong Gibraltar Open and obtaining a historic win at the 50th edition of the Biel Tournament in 2017 — she finished ahead of three 2700+ players: Bacrot, Harikrishna and Navara.

A few days ago, on July 10, she broke yet another record, by becoming the youngest full professor in the history of the University of Shenzhen. 

The heads of the University intend to strengthen the institution’s sports program, and consider that “chess can play an active role in an innovative city”. Having the strongest woman player in the world leading the program certainly bodes good news for the future!

The city, located on the east bank of the Pearl River estuary on the central coast of southern Guangdong province, has become known to chess players thanks to its Masters Tournament, won by international stars Ding Liren, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri in its first three editions.

True to her nature, Hou Yifan expressed her desire to not only focus on chess improvement but also on encouraging students to get a more comprehensive set of skills. 

Liu Shilan, Hou Yifan

Liu Shilan, the Dean of the Shenzhen University, in fact won the Chinese Women’s Chess Championship no fewer than seven times!


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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