Interview with Hou Yifan

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You can read an interview with the best female player in the World - Hou Yifan. 

An Interview was made back in 2013 in Kazan.

Enjoy reading.

Interview with Hou Yifan

Youngest World Champion is soft spoken, smiling, curious, beautiful young lady. Russian players call her Fania. As she says herself, she is a child of the city. So, exit to the nature, like in Kazan makes her terribly happy. She is surprised to see red berries in the forest, and asks – Is it possible to eat red colour berries? My answer is that it is wild strawberry, here people use to eat them and to drink tea from its leafs. Great biologist Carl Linney used them to cure his podagra, which had either Mikhail Tal. Generally, all red berries in Russian forests are eatable, especially wild berries and cranberries. In China we had nothing like that. What about mushrooms - here in restaurant we eat some yellow ones. At school our teachers warned, that there are too much terribly poisonous ones. I answer, that this mushrooms are called here FOXIES, and are very tasty. But in Russia peoples know how to differ poisonous mushrooms. And some other questions about nature are endless. She likes to collect different chess sets from the stone and in Kazan made trip to few shops, looking for them.

But let us return to chess.

What is Your opinion about Anand - Gelfand match?

Some games were interesting, some boring. Like players were without energy, especially strange was short Gelfand`s loss. I played during this game rapid chess and after finish I wanted to see how the game went, but friends told me that it is over!

What is the difference between Women`s and Men`s World Champion in Your opinion?

Men are much better prepared in the openings generally - much deeper. But here was strange, that nothing  spectacular was showed, practically all their preparation was out of the stage. Pity! Koneru prepared very well in the openings for World Championship match and applied many novelties against me in Tirana. Anand and Gelfand played, like they wanted to avoid opponent`s preparation, nothing more. And form of both was not the highest. It was very difficult psychological fight, as most of fight, which aim was to avoid opponent`s preparation, was very difficult to see for public.

I saw, that You had openings problems in the match against Koneru. Was it difficult to play, as You are always following opponent`s preparation?

For me not, except the fact, that I had to think more and I was spending more time on the start of every game, as opponent generally. Some players are strong in the opening, but have problems later. But I am a player, who can play better in the middle game.

Computer helps many players to be stronger in the opening and it makes chess less interesting. But chess game is not only opening.

Here I see, that You have openings problems either. How can You play Maroczy with Black? It is not Your style – it`s like suicide! Lahno pressed You terribly.

I prepared well for match with Koneru in the openings, but after I played too many games and my openings are out. I just finished terribly strong tournament of top Chinese players and had no time for rest.

How with Your trainers, did they help You during this tournament and before? Russian players are contacting their trainers on SKYPE using modern technology.

I have two trainers, but they are terribly busy last time. Ye is caring about National team, plus he is politician. Another just got a baby. We don’t use Internet options for training. So, usually I am accompanied by my mother.

Tell me Your impressions after playing J.Polgar. Do You have ambitions to be better than she was in her top times?

Not now, maybe on the long run. She did not played women tournaments, maybe she believed that women are too weak for her. Everybody can have different opinions. I don’t have the direct plan to become 2700 player. I just play tournament after tournament, recently I lost many Elo points. So, it will be necessary to get them back to go forward.

What are Your plans for the year?

I will play Chinese League, then another last FIDE Grand Prix, Olympiad and at the end World Championship in Khanty Mansijsk. In September I’ll start my studies in Bejing University - international relations. I don’t know exactly yet, which direction I`ll study later. Our Universities are huge, more than 100.000 students! The best are in Hong Kong, but I must study in Chinas mainland.  

Does Chinese Federation plans tournament for You or You can chose Yourself?

I get invitations, but Federation always has to give permission. We have Federation of Mind sports now. There are Chess, Go, Bridge, Chinese chess and recently were added checkers.(Alisa Galliamova told, that in past times Chinese players had to give up to their federation half of the prizes, they got playing abroad)

How did You started to play?

I was born in city of province, which is close to Shanghai. I had chess teacher, who was training beginners, we had no strong teachers and they were quite few. Even nowadays we have not enough trainers, even if some former top players became trainers. We had just few books in Chinese, old ones. Something like Chess Encyclopedia of Openings. Even now we don’t have many books in Chinese. It was one good book selection of the best games of World Champion Xie Jun. She was a big star and example in China. Now she is politician, and works as Vice Principal in Central Sports College. Of course she was my big example to work hard.

When I worked with former Chinese top player (now Dutch Champion) Zhaoqin Peng, she told me how Chinese players worked. All best are constantly living in Central sport school in Bejing. They eat here, played football for physical preparation, studied few hours in school and had 5-6 hours chess training. They got Xeroxed Chess Informants, nothing more. Trainers did not worked individually - everybody had to work with Informants alone. They stayed there till they were 25-30. Main problem was, that girls did not study there how to cook! How It looks nowadays?

Now it is different, there are many tournaments, all top players are married and they are not frequently in central sports school. Just young team is there constantly. There are some English books plus computers nowadays.

Do You play blitz there, as sisters Polgar did every day after training or training tournaments,  as Soviet players did?

No, we don’t play blitz, just sometimes we play friendly. Younger players played sometimes training tournaments. Just few times we had preparation for Olympiad in some other sport center in the mountains.

Now it was build Academy for Minds Sports Federation and we`ll train there. We have some good new players now, few very talented girls, as Zhao Xue and Ju Wenjun. Plus of course, three times China Champion Ding Liren, he has to show himself on International level soon.

Does it exist Chinese chess school, as it was Soviet Chess School?

No, I don’t think so. China is big, there are different centers, but they don’t form the single Chinese School.

In every big city are different trainers and they teach differently. Just sometimes openings are the same from certain cities.

How do You evaluate Your play here?

I started badly, as I was terribly tired after men super tournament in China. I played, like I was not myself.

Later I started to return back my usual play and free day helped me seriously. I relaxed very well during excursion.

As I saw that You are participating in every excursion during the tournaments. Some experts, like Botvinnik did not recommend to do it during the tournaments.

Everybody has its own style in life and during tournaments. I want to relax and to see new places and peoples. Here we saw beautiful old Kazan Kremlin and I even touched the wall of sacred tower, which brings luck.

Maybe, it worked - Laughs.

You always come with a pot of some liquid for the game. Is it Your secret weapon?

Laughing. Yes it is. It is special Chinese fruit tea for refreshing and concentration. At the end I eat some berries from it.

Last question - Are You following the social and economic life of our country?

Yes, very much. Especially important for me are changes in family politics of the government. It is pity, that I don’t have brother or sister. Soon it will be possible for families to have two children. At the moment pregnant women faces two choices - to pay for second child, what is possible just for rich or to make an abortion. Last dramatic case, when women had to make abortion just ten days before the birth of child was very painful for me.

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