A top female chess grandmaster from China shocked the local chess community after she intentionally threw a match at a major event last Thursday.
Chinese women’s world champion Hou Yifan reportedly quit a game after just five moves during the final round of the Tradewise Gibraltar tournament. She later said she did it as a form of protest for being continually pitted against other women, the National Post reported.
Those in attendance were baffled over the 22-year-old’s deliberate loss to lower-ranked Indian grandmaster Babu Lalith.
“This is the first time I’ve been speechless in eight years,” said British grandmaster Simon Williams, who was broadcasting the game.
He then wondered aloud whether she had, in fact, “gone mental” or was “still drunk.”
Chess international master Jovanka Houska, Williams’ co-host, at least had an idea of what was going on:
“She must be upset with something. I was discussing with her at dinnertime and she thought the pairings were very unfair towards her. She was a bit upset that she was playing seven women (in the 10-round mixed-sex tournament).”
Huo would later confirm this in an interview, saying that she had been upset about the tournament’s pairings throughout the event. In over 10 rounds, she said, she had drawn seven women players.
“It makes me really, really upset,” Hou said. “Not just for me, but for the other women players.
“We are chess players and of course when we are playing in a tournament we want to show our best performance and create interesting games for the chess fans, for the people who love chess.”
The tournament’s director, grandmaster Stuart Conquest, has dubbed Huo’s actions as “the biggest crisis” in the 15 years of the tournament.
As it is an open tournament, players of any gender are welcome to participate and Huo found it as an opportunity to engage tougher competitors. To be able to play in the mixed events, where she expected to face a higher level of competition, she even skipped defending her women’s world championship title in Iran this month.
While Huo is currently the top-ranked female player listed on the World Chess Federation, she places 105th in the combined list.