Februar 24, 2024

Hou Yifan wins second WSCC title

GM Hou Yifan is the first player to win two WSCC titles. After defeating GM Harika Dronavalli in the Julius Baer Women’s Speed Chess Championship 2023 Final 15-11, the Chinese grandmaster is a two-time champion.

„Ever since her first victory, she never relinquished the lead,“ commentator GM Daniel Naroditsky said after the match. Critical to her success was incisive precision when converting advantages, as well as her resilience to save several lost positions.

Both times Hou won the WSCC, in 2021 and 2023, she faced Harika in the final. Two years ago, she won her first title with a 15-13 score, but this year, Hou went above and beyond 2021, and her powerful start in the first segment paved the way for a commanding and impenetrable lead.

When the match clock reached seven minutes, the commentators started discussing the match in the past tense, even as games were ongoing. Harika won the last two games, which does count for prize money by win percentage but not for the title.

Hou earns $10,000 for winning the title match and another $5,769.23 by win percentage. Harika takes home $4,230.77 for the games she won.

„I got lucky to start with some leading positions,“ said Hou in her interview. „When this match [went] to the bullet chess, I felt like I [couldn’t] see the moves… but in general, I am relatively satisfied with the performance today, especially compared to the previous match where I blundered more.“

Will the world’s highest-rated woman return to chess full-time in the future? The answer wasn’t a „yes,“ but it wasn’t a „no“ either!

Harika also joined for an interview, sharing: „I’m just not happy with my strength today. I think it has to do with immediately back-to-back matches… it was really exhausting because I finished my matches at like 11 p.m. and today immediately to start this evening… I’ll have this regret for some time.“

She also later added: „This is one of my favourite tournaments, being at home, you can play such matches with the best players with an amazing prize fund… I wish to come back again next year!“

Text and photos: chess.com

Official website: chess.com/events/info/2023-womens-speed-chess-championship