Between the two of them, Ju Wenjun and Hou Yifan led China’s charge in the overall chess event at the 2013 World Mind Games, clearing out 5 of the 7 medals that the Chinese men and women won in the different chess events. Almost a year later, they are back for the 2014 World Mind Games, promising to blow the opposition out of the water on home ground again.
Having confirmed her participation for the 2014 event, Hou Yifan is looking to better her haul of 1 gold and 2 silver medals at the 2013 edition of the World Mind Games in Beijing. Since then, she has won the FIDE Grand Prix series 2013-2014 and has earned the right to challenge for the world championship over 10 rounds in 2015. She is also the top ranked girl’s player in the world and enjoys 2nd spot in the women’s world rankings. The accomplishments are exemplary and they are made all the more extraordinary with the realisation that she is only 20 years of age!
Catching them young seems to be China’s mantra when it comes to chess, as is exemplified by Hou’s teammate, Ju Wenjun. Only 23, Ju won 2 bronze medals at the World Mind Games 2013 and returns to the event this year, stronger and more accomplished as a player. Her most recent honour was finishing first at the Sharjah Grand Prix in the first week of September, where she finished joint top with Hou. Not only this, she was also the ambassador for the sport at the 2013 World Mind Games and spoke at that time of the enjoyable challenge she faced with balancing a life of chess, studies and simply, growing up, with her ‘love of European and American fashion’ making her the poster girl for women’s chess in China.
It is no secret that the queen is the most important piece on a chessboard, capable of striking fear in the mind of the opponent. If China’s chess scene was one giant chessboard, it goes without saying that it would have two ‘queens’ on the same side- Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun, who are going to pose the stiffest challenges to all competitors in the women’s chess event.