There is a new queen of chess.
With a third-place finish (after tie-breaks) in the Tradewise Gibraltar tournament in Caleta, England, 20-year-old Hou Yifan has made a giant step forward.
A prodigy of rare talent, who learned to play the game at 3 and was able to beat her father a few weeks later, she is now unofficially ranked 58th in the world – higher rated than Judit Polgar who has been the No. 1 woman player in the world for the last 26 consecutive years.
Polgar retired from active play in 2014.
Like many young players of exceptional ability, Hou Yifan was homeschooled – a common-sense solution for aspiring chess professionals given the heavy time demands of the game and the frequency of travel abroad.
China’s distance from the European chess epicenter alone makes regular school attendance difficult.
Because of her age and very high rating, it will not be surprising to see the Chinese prodigy among the chess elite within a few years.
For Hou Yifan, as for many – if not a majority – of young grandmasters, Bobby Fischer is her favorite chess player.