Hou Yifan-Short, Van Foreest-Sokolov Matches Underway In Hoogeveen

Hou Yifan-Short, Van Foreest-Sokolov Matches Underway In Hoogeveen

| 5 | Chess Event Coverage

The annual chess festival in Hoogeveen, The Netherlands this year features the matches Hou Yifan vs Nigel Short and Jorden van Foreest vs Ivan Sokolov.

Now in its 20th edition, Hoogeveen Chess continues its relatively new format of two six-game matches instead of a four-player round robin. That is how it all started in 1997, when the players were Judit Polgar, Vassily Smyslov, Emil Sutovsky and Loek van Wely.

The Hoogeveen Town Hall is again hosting chess in October. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Back then, the intention was to invite the strongest Dutchman, the strongest female player, the World Junior Champion, and a former world class player; this formula was kept for many years. Major chess figures such as Boris Spassky, Viktor Korchnoi, and Anatoly Karpov have made the trip to the small town of Hoogeveen, where Polgar was the special guest for many years.

The Hungarian grandmaster has now retired from chess, but she still promotes the game wherever she can. Her place atop the chess Olympus has been overtaken by Hou Yifan, who is one of the players invited by Loek van Wely. Van Wely is both a former participant and, as of 2015, the tournament director.

The reigning women's world champion plays Nigel Short, who returns to Hoogeveen 12 years after his first participation. The other match sees Jorden van Foreest, who made his debut last year in a match versus Jan Timman. His opponent is Ivan Sokolov.

Nigel Short, Loek van Wely and Hou Yifan at the opening ceremony. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

The Hou Yifan vs Short match, the most prominent of the two, is interesting for another reason. That is of course the column written by Short 1.5 years ago, which was picked up by mainstream media. Short's main argument was that "men and women's brains are hard-wired very differently," and that we should "gracefully accept" the inequality "as a fact."

At the opening ceremony, Short commented that this was about averages. "Hou Yifan is not average. I can also say that younger players are better on average than older players. I am the only player above 50 in the top 100. In any case, no doubt there will be jubilation if I lose this match, but I’ll do my best."

Well, in the first game, Short was doing fine although missing a win doesn't quite help him to win the match. We'll have to wait and see if this oversight will haunt him in the remainder of the week. 

Another pic from the opening ceremony, with Hou Yifan
and Short in good spirits. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Ivan Sokolov, who quit his job as coach of the United Arab Emirates shortly before the Olympiad, might have a bit more time to play chess again. In the first game, he beat the fresh Dutch Champion, who underestimated the dangers against his king.

Van Foreest and Sokolov after the game. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Games two and three will be played on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday is a rest day, and then the second half will take another three days.

Alongside the matches there's the traditional open tournament. This year, ten grandmasters are playing, including last year's winner Abhijeet Gupta of India.

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