Interview with Hou Yifan

by Dagobert Kohlmeyer
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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An interview with Women's World Champion Hou Yifan

After Hou Yifan regained the title of Women's World Champion by winning 6-3 in the the World Championship match against Mariya Muzychuk in Lviv, the new and old World Champion she found time for an interview with German chess journalist Dagobert Kohlmeyer interview - though the Chinese grandmaster suffered from a persistent cold and had a busy schedule.

Women's World Champion Hou Yifan

Congratulations to winning the match for the Women’s World Championship in Lviv convincingly: You won 6-3 without losing a single game. Did you expect such a clear result?

Of course, when I came to Lviv I was confident, but I am still quite happy that the match ended successfully and that I won the title back. It was a tough match because I had to handle many “off board” issues before and during the match. Still, I am satisfied with the result of the match, however, less from a technical point of view but mainly because these issues did not influence my play negatively.

How do you feel after winning the title for the fourth time?

I am satisfied with my play in the match but I cannot say that I have only positive feelings – after all, to me the current Women's World Championship system seems to be unfair. And I believe I'm not the only one who thinks like this. It would be good if the current system changed to a more reasonable format. I am sure, a "real" World Championship Match would attract much more attention.

Actually, last month I officially made a proposal to FIDE to change the format of the Women’s World Championship. I suggested three reasonable alternatives but the answer I received seems to indicate that my proposal was not accepted. The main reason why they want to stick to the current system is the fact that it is easier to find sponsors if you call the knock-out tournament “World Championship”. If you called it "World Cup" it would be extremely difficult to find sponsors.

Hou Yifan and Mariya Muzychuk at an after-game press conference during the World Championship match

How long did you prepare for the match against Mariya Muzychuk?

Initially, the match was supposed to take place in October 2015, but then got rescheduled to March 2016. But since my tournament schedule was arranged before it was announced that the date of the World Championship match was changed from October to March, I only started to prepare seriously for the match in the middle of February, after playing an event in Chile.

Hou Yifan on her way to regain the title

You work together with Vladimir Chuchelov who also helped you to prepare for the match?

Our cooperation for the Match was not the first time we worked together. I am also pretty happy that I could absorb knowledge from different strong Grandmasters as it opens my horizons and helps me to understand chess better.

Hou Yifan with Vladimir Chuchelov

What are your plans for this year: Do you want to finish your studies or do you want to focus on chess?

I will graduate this summer and therefore it’s time to work on my graduation paper seriously – time runs quickly. This was another reason why playing the World Championship in March was not ideal for me. I had to take care of a number of things to prepare for my graduation. But I will simply try my best.

In the meantime I will also participate in some tournaments and a couple of strong tournaments. I hope I will have more opportunities to play against the top-players this year. After my graduation I will definitely focus more on chess.

2015 you played in the strong Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Dortmund. Would you like to play there again?

Of course! It was a great experience though I did not play particularly well. However, it would be great if I could be invited again.

Pictures from the closing ceremony of the Women's World Championship in Lviv

Flowers and a painting for the new World Champion and...

... and for Mariya Muzychuk

Arbiter Carol Jarecki crowns the new World Champion with a laurel wreath
Georgios Makropoulous (left) watches.

At the Potocki palace...


... a plaque to commemorate the match was revealed.

Photos: Vitaly Hrabar (Tournament site Lviv)

Dagobert Kohlmeyer is one of the best known German chess journalists. For more than 25 years Kohlmeyer, who lives in Berlin, has been travelling all over the world to report about and to capture impressions of Chess Olympiads, World Championships, and top tournaments.


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