With a victory on Tuesday, Hou Yifan, a 16-year-old Chinese grandmaster, has taken the lead of the final of the Women’s World Chess Championship.
The championship is taking place in Hatay, Turkey.
In the final, Hou is facing Ruan Lufei, another Chinese player who is a women’s grandmaster â€” a title roughly equivalent to international master. Ruan was a surprising finalist after she defeated two higher-ranked opponents, including Alexandra Kosteniuk, a Russian grandmaster and the defending champion.
The final is a best-of-four match. The first game on Monday ended in a draw. It was a see-saw affair full of tactical complications. Ruan, who was Black, won two pieces for a rook, but Hou picked up several pawns, which tilted the material balance in her favor. But Hou was unable to hang on to all the pawns. After Ruan won back two of them, she was no longer in danger of losing and the players agreed to a draw.
Game 2 on Tuesday was a quiet strategic game in which Ruan had White. Though the opening was a Sicilian Defense, which can be double-edged, neither side seemed to have any prospects of winning. But after most of the pieces had been exchanged and the players headed for an endgame, Ruan struggled to defend her pawns. She finally blundered, losing two pawns, though Hou faced technical difficulties to convert her advantage to a win. Ruan made a couple of weak moves, however, simplifying Hou’s task. Soon after, Ruan resigned.
Hou now only needs to win one more game, or draw the last two, to become world champion. Game 3 is Wednesday and Game 4, should it be necessary, is scheduled for Thursday.