Hou Yifan Regains World Title, Beats Muzychuk 6-3

Hou Yifan Regains World Title, Beats Muzychuk 6-3

| 35 | Chess Event Coverage

She only needed a draw but won the final game as well. On Monday Hou Yifan convincingly regained her world championship title by beating Mariya Muzychuk 6-3 in the 2016 Women's World Championship Match in Lviv, Ukraine.

Photos by Vitalyi Hrabar.

You can work with the best grandmasters available and reach opening positions you could only dream of, but it's not enough when your opponent is a better player. Despite having a dream team at her disposal (GMs Pavel Eljanov, Yuriy Kryvoruchko and her sister Anna) and playing rather well, Mariya Muzychuk lost her match with Hou Yifan with a score that reflected the Elo difference rather accurately.

The local hero didn't speak about her play, but graciously noted: “I'm happy that this match took place in my home city Lviv because many chess players had chance to come and visit this match.” Her opponent also witnessed the many chess lovers and clearly appreciated the popularity of chess in Ukraine.

Hou Yifan, back to being the women's world champion.

About her victory, Hou said: “Of course I'm very happy that I managed to successfully finish the match. My team are supporting me here all the time during the match and before. I would also like to mention that, although there's a six-hour time difference, there are many people in China watching online, and supporting me. I even received some messages after the game, even though it's already midnight. Many people and also my friends in the chess world are supporting me.”

She also remarked several times in the final press conference (embedded below) that her match was not difficult from a chess perspective, but that other issues had made it difficult. Perhaps at some point it will become clear what she exactly meant there. has learnt that there were various disagreements on technical matters, and apparently they affected Hou.

Game 7

The seventh match game was another Open Ruy Lopez and yet again Hou went for a different ninth move: this time the modern mainline 9.Nd2. Of course Muzychuk was prepared for this, if only because Hou had played this before.

The Chinese GM deviated on move 19 from a game with Humpy Koneru. Muzychuk reacted strongly, but needed a lot of time in the opening as she mixed up her preparation. It resulted in a position where Black had an isolated e-pawn, but her pieces were very active.

Game seven, with Hou Yifan behind the white pieces.

After lots of maneuvering Muzychuk won a pawn after the time control and got some winning chances in a rook ending. There, both players were low on time and eventually Hou escaped by reaching the famous Philidor position.

The game 7 press conference courtesy of FIDE.

Game 8

In game eight Muzychuk played under the pressure that a loss would have meant the end of the match. Her approach was rather down-to-earth: “My task is just to make the strongest moves each time and not consider the possible result.” Hou Yifan reacted similarly: “I just try to focus on the games.”

Rather big media interest each day in Lviv.

Muzychuk returned to 1.d4 for this game, but found a well-prepared opponent against her. Still, White's position looked more promising after she closed the center. But there Hou showed fantastic positional defensive skills. As our commentator GM Dejan Bojkov notes, “From here on the Chinese GM does miracles with her pieces on the limited space she has. ”

The game 8 press conference courtesy of FIDE.

Game 9

“It's a common situation when you have to win, you play too sharp, you play too much for a victory and thus you lose,” Muzychuk summarized the last game.

Choosing the Classical Sicilian, Muzychuk returned to an old love. Hou played the very solid 6.Be2 line, which has been considered harmless for decades but when you only need a draw it might not be so strange.

Hou vs Muzychuk, in what turned out to be the last game.

In the game, the main “drawback” was that it allowed an early ...d5, but that would have led to lots of exchanges — exactly what Black had to avoid. She couldn't avoid the trade of queens though.

In an attempt to create winning chances Muzychuk started pushing her pawns on the kingside, but with 28.g3! Hou solved everything and then decided the game on the queenside.

The game 9 press conference courtesy of FIDE.

Hou Yifan won all three matches for the world title: against Humpy Koneru, Anna Ushenina and now Mariya Muzychuk. Her lead in the FIDE rating list will be almost a hundred points, and so it's safe to say that she is dominating her rivals.

Therefore it's good to know that she'll be playing against male opponents in her next event. In ten days from now, Hou will be playing in the qualifier for the Norway Chess tournament together with Jon Ludvig Hammer, Nils Grandelius and Aryan Tari.

Hou Yifan undergoing a metal detector test before the final game. 

This summer she plans to graduate (she studies International Relations in Beijing), and then play more chess in the second half of the year.

Muzychuk's next event is the Batumi Women's Grand Prix which starts 19 April.

Muzychuk's hard work for the match might well pay off in future events.

2016 Women's World Championship | Final Score

Name Rtg Perf 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 Score
Hou Yifan 2673 2674 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 6
Muzychuk,Mariya 2554 2553 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 3

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