Hou Yifan is the highest ranked women’s chess player in the world. She became the youngest woman to reach the rank of grandmaster when she was 16, and she already had four World Championships under her belt by age 22. Her nickname is “Queen of Chess” and last year, she declined to defend her women’s World Championship to compete against the top men in the world. Her rating of 2651 would put her just outside the top 100 of the men’s rankings.
Yifan was competing in the final match of a tournament in Gibraltar yesterday, and she showed up half an hour late, then quickly lost the game in five moves. The video of the match is quite entertaining just to hear the commentators lose their shit and question whether Hou was drunk or off her rocker.
“She played G4??? This is the first time I’ve been speechless in eight years.” You’re telling me bud!
Afterwards, Hou addressed the bizarre game and said that she took a protest loss because she had been paired up against seven women and only three men in the tournament. “I just hoped that attention could be coming to the final decisive round. And what I also hope [is] that the pairings — you know — for the future event should be like a 100 percent fair situation,” she said. Makes sense that if you swapped dominating a certain field for playing against the best players in the world you’d be pissed if you didn’t get the chance.
As you might imagine, the staid chess world was shocked by Hou’s very public declaration. Tournament organizer Brian Callaghan insisted that Hou had been treated fairly because all the matchups were randomly selected by a computer.
“These pairings are not made by people,” Callaghan said Thursday. “I understand: If I was in her shoes, and I suddenly pulled a draw of six girls one after the other, I would say also, ‘What is going on here?’ But clearly nothing was going on. It’s coming out of a machine.”
Also, a fellow grandmaster whose name is Stuart Conquest said it was “the biggest crisis” in the tournament’s history. I’d like to note that his name is really Stuart Conquest.
Callaghan later said Hou “let herself down a bit today,” which I gotta call bullshit on, because any protest that made so many old chess dudes that mad is a good one by me.