Off-Form Hou Yifan Still #1 While Judit Polgar Promotes Chess In Spain

Off-Form Hou Yifan Still #1 While Judit Polgar Promotes Chess In Spain

| 24 | Chess Event Coverage

An off-form GM Hou Yifan dropped 10.5 Elo points at the Nakhchivan Open. In the live ratings she's still ahead of GM Judit Polgar, who was in Spain this weekend promoting chess.

With almost 100 Elo points more than her female rivals, it seems the right time for GM Hou Yifan to play more games against higher-rated opponents.

That's what she's doing: last week the Chinese GM played in an open tournament in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan. It didn't go very well, though.

After five rounds the ex-world champion had scored a disastrous 1.5 points, which included losses to two IMs — both as White. It cost her 15.5 Elo points. Hou even dropped back to #2 in the live ratings, behind GM Judit Polgar, for a few days.

It seemed that Hou's sense of danger just wasn't there. Two examples:

Her second loss against an IM was hard to explain, except for possible time trouble. But the intuition of a women's world champion should have prevented her hand reaching for the knight:

Hou Yifan playing in the Nakhchivan Open.

From that point it was recovery mode. Hou won her next three games, against two FMs and an IM, and drew GM Alexander Khalifman in the last round. It was just enough to stay ahead of Polgar by half a rating point!

Hou won her game against Iranian FM Amin Tabatabaei after 67 moves, but it should have ended much earlier:

“El Khalif” is coaching and playing in Azerbaijan.

Two local heroes tied for first place and shared prizes of $10,000 and $5,000: GM Gadir Guseinov and GM Eltaj Safarli. The latter had the best tiebreak and was declared the winner. His last round was a short affair:

Guseinov was the only other player on 6.0/8 who won in the last round. He defeated GM Sergei Tiviakov remarkably easily, in one of the Dutch GM's pet openings, the Scandinavian with 3...Qd6:

Guseinov and Safarli played a quick draw in round seven.

Two 2700 GMs, top seeds in the starting ranks, couldn't play for the top prizes: GM Etienne Bacrot and GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov. With a score of 6.0/9 they finished ninth and tenth respectively.

2015 Nakhchivan Open | Final Standings (Top 20)

Rk. Title Name Rtg FED Pts. TB1 TB2
1 GM Safarli Eltaj 2640 AZE 7 2504 5
2 GM Guseinov Gadir 2612 AZE 7 2413 6
3 GM Pantsulaia Levan 2603 GEO 6,5 2539 5
4 GM Idani Pouya 2526 IRI 6 2537 4
5 GM Tiviakov Sergei 2642 NED 6 2506 4
6 GM Onischuk Vladimir 2669 UKR 6 2493 5
7 GM Gupta Abhijeet 2603 IND 6 2491 3
8 GM Khalifman Alexander 2624 RUS 6 2476 3
9 GM Bacrot Etienne 2704 FRA 6 2471 4
10 GM Kasimdzhanov Rustam 2715 UZB 6 2466 3
11 GM Hou Yifan 2686 CHN 6 2456 5
12 GM Adhiban B. 2636 IND 6 2375 5
13 GM Gasanov Eldar 2494 UKR 5,5 2491 3
14 GM Baklan Vladimir 2633 UKR 5,5 2487 3
15 GM Paichadze Luka 2556 GEO 5,5 2484 4
16 GM Romanov Evgeny 2581 RUS 5,5 2455 4
17 FM Gadimbayli Abdulla 2301 AZE 5,5 2445 5
18 GM Mamedov Rauf 2655 AZE 5,5 2445 4
19 Beradze Irakli 2310 GEO 5 2573 4
20 GM Bajarani Ulvi 2504 AZE 5 2554 4

(Full final standings here.)

GM Judit Polgar retired from chess last August and will be considered inactive by FIDE a year after her last rated game. While Hou was struggling in Azerbaijan, Polgar was shining in Spain over the weekend, doing what she's so good at: promoting the game.

Polgar joined Spanish journalist Leontxo Garcia in Murcia, where on Saturday she gave a simul with children at the central square, close to the cathedral. After a lecture on Friday by Garcia, Polgar also did a small blindfold chess exhibition with two children.

Judit Polgar giving a simul in Murcia, Spain last Saturday.

In Murcia there's a strong cooperative of 75 schools that want to promote chess as a subject, following the decision in Spanish parliament on February 11 to give the green light to chess as a subject in schools in Spain nationwide.

Perhaps it's too early to give up hope for a match between Hou and Polgar. Whether that will happen or not, the two ladies are great players, and great ambassadors for the game.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

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