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On Chess: Women's world champion cruises in Gibraltar

This article first appeared in th St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 3, 2012 - The current women's world champion, 17-year-old Hou Yifan of China, is having a fantastic tournament at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Congress. She has beaten three super grandmasters in a row: Hungarian GMs Zoltan Almasi and Judit Polgar, and the Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem. Hou is currently tied for first place.

What is unusual about the Gibraltar Chess Congress is the number of top women who participate. The organizers provide a very generous prize fund with excellent prizes for the top female players. The top American women, Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush, also are participating along with at least 10 of the top 20 women in the world.

Monday's round saw Hou play Polgar, who is the strongest woman of all time and has even cracked the top 10 on the world's rankings. Hou was able to beat Polgar in a complicated Sicilian in the first-ever match-up of these heavyweights. Polgar also was paired earlier in the event with former world champion, and the No. 2-ranked female player, Humpy Koneru of India. That game ended in a draw.

The top women doing well on the world stage is no surprise, and the young Hou Yifan may someday compete for the world title for all players, as she is only 17 and has a chance to reach the top 10 some day, just as Polgar did years ago.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center regularly holds a beginner women's class every Thursday at 7 p.m., which is free for club members. The class is growing in popularity as more and more women are coming out to take free classes and improve their game. Once again, the Chess Club will be holding the 2012 U.S. Women's Championships this May, and all of the top American female players will vie for the title in a round-robin (all-play-all) format.

To follow the action in arguably the strongest open tournament of the year, visit https://www.gibraltarchesscongress.com/ and root for your favorite players.

Ben Finegold is the GM in residence at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.

Ben Finegold
Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and was dubbed “The 40-year-old GM” after receiving the title in 2009. In between, Finegold was a U.S. Junior champion in 1989, a recipient of the prestigious Samford Chess Fellowship in 1993 and a competitor in nine U.S. Championships. He is a popular scholastic coach and commentator for elite events.