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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sicilian_D sicilian_D 4/5/2016 05:19
could she have China sponsor the world championship permanently (or for the next 15 yrs or so)?
That might help get her proposal through :)
malfa malfa 4/4/2016 01:08
I have been maintaining for years that women-only competitions should simply be abolished, but of course this is completely against the interests of top women chess players.
thlai80 thlai80 4/4/2016 11:31
Fide excuse doesn't make up. If the men's KO tournament can be called World Cup and still have sponsors, why not women's? Anyway, since it is KO format just like football World Cup, it makes sense to just called it World Cup, if Fide still insist on having KO championships. Karjakin, for whatever his exploits were at both World Cup and Candidates, is still not called World Champion, so why should it be different to women's format? It makes it very weird for Yifan needing to fight for her place in GP tournaments to qualify for a shot at the title which she owns.
jacktrhegreat jacktrhegreat 4/3/2016 10:13
A knock-out format is an idiotic idea (that only FIDE could come up with) to decide a world champion...
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 4/3/2016 06:41
Hou should exclusively play in the strong "men's" tournaments. I don't she what she gains by being woman's championship.
slika slika 4/3/2016 05:10
@A7fecd1676b88 Hear, hear!
A7fecd1676b88 A7fecd1676b88 4/3/2016 02:44
@Denix Nope. The players dictate to the sponsor. That is what Fischer fought for. The sponsors benefit from the advertising, not the other way around. Chess was played without sponsors for years.
Denix Denix 4/3/2016 11:52
If you are the sponsor you can dictate how the world championship should be played. It's up to the players to agree to play your terms. FIDE is just the chess governing body, making rules of fair play and organizing championships like what everybody witnessed. The participants accepted the rules of play and so we have a world champion. Thanks to the sponsor(s).

Now, if you are the strongest person but did not participate in the competition, then don't blame FIDE of awarding the championship to one of the participants. Your suggestion of changing the rules is welcome so let FIDE and the sponsor recognize it. Chess is business and not about genius. The participation of greatest talents and geniuses makes chess very interesting.
amarpan amarpan 4/3/2016 11:06
Its high time time Hou Yifan stops playing completely in women's tournament and plays only in open tournaments.
Philip Feeley Philip Feeley 4/3/2016 08:56
"three reasonable alternatives "

It would be interesting to know what these were so we could discuss them, and maybe lobby FIDE on her behalf.
michaelriber michaelriber 4/3/2016 08:45
Jason Rihel: I agree completely. In fact, the best thing Hou Yifan could do would be to follow Judit Polgar's example and only compete in open tournaments. The Women's WC needs her more than the other way round...
jajalamapratapri jajalamapratapri 4/3/2016 08:28
So what are those 3 alternatives she proposed?? That would be more interesting than those stupid pictures.
hansj hansj 4/3/2016 07:07
" I suggested three reasonable alternatives ..."

Well, dear ChessBase: let us hear Yifan's alternatives. What are they?
ff2017 ff2017 4/3/2016 06:14
FIDE doesn't really care who the world champions are. The casual player doesn't follow professional chess, the chess ethusiast will follow no matter what. Susan Polgar dealing with post-pregnancy and requests deferrment of match, Fide refuses, result: loses title.

I feel sad, I was eagerly awaiting this interview, but it was much shorter than her other post-championship match interviews.
A7fecd1676b88 A7fecd1676b88 4/3/2016 04:31
FIDE needs Hou.
Hou does not need FIDE.

If FIDE does not agree to Hou's demands, she should refuse to defend her title. A knockout format is anti-skill.
gmwdim gmwdim 4/3/2016 02:07
@quantentunnel That might be inconvenient since the losing player was Ukrainian. ;)
Chessspawnvt Chessspawnvt 4/3/2016 12:13
Women chess players of the World---UNITE!! Unionize and make FIDE listen.
wowbagger wowbagger 4/2/2016 11:08
They don't find sponsors anyhow so this reason sounds completely random. Maybe they should start with skipping the obligation to pay a bribe to FIDE. They use k.o. format because of the sponsor, but can't find a sponsor. Use a real chess format, lower your expectations, and learn selling things. The women's title always attracts some media attention, but marketing requires a different skill set than running a 10% scheme.
vladivaclav vladivaclav 4/2/2016 09:55
any video of closing ceremony?
quantentunnel quantentunnel 4/2/2016 08:40
On that plaque there would have been plenty of space to inform the future readers also about the result of that match...
Aighearach Aighearach 4/2/2016 08:22
She should just decline to participate in that tournament, and let them have their paper champion.

FIDE has been down this road, I'm not sure why they're wanting to take that turn, but she should just continue down the main road and play tournaments, and play for the Championship when a match is being called the World Championship.

She's so much stronger than everybody else, they need her more than she needs them.
Jason Rihel Jason Rihel 4/2/2016 07:53
I think we should just continue informally to ignore FIDE's labelling of the knockout tournament as a world championship, much like most of us did back when Kasparov and FIDE split the titles. No one I know called the FIDE cup winner a world champion, but instead consider the champions to be determined by matches, i.e. Kasparov-Krammnik-Anand-Carlsen.

I see Hou Yifan the same way-- the undisputed, and undefeated champion-- until someone beats her in a match, or she fails to defend her title in a match.
Hhorse Hhorse 4/2/2016 07:50
Like Carlsen, Hou is way ahead of her competition. But, like Carlsen, she also has not been able to make close the "influence gap" with Fide. Its their way or highway...