The American sports giant ESPN has an article about Hou Yifan, who's one of the
extremely few Chinese women that it has ever profiled.
"The exceptional genius of Hou Yifan"
"Without a doubt, they [top male players] said, she [Hou Yifan] was a phenom, a rare
and unique talent. The only question was her commitment. "She works less on chess
than men," said [Anish] Giri, the 12th-ranked player in the world. "She's less prepared.""
"Even while traveling and competing, she [Hou Yifan] continued to pursue her studies,
sampling a wide array of subjects and disciplines, from science and politics to social
entrepreneurship and business."
"In 2012, Hou chose to attend Peking University, one of China's top universities, to study
international relations. It was an unusual move for a rising chess star; most forgo higher
education to train and compete full time. Her coach strongly disagreed with the decision.
"Use your best years for chess," he told her."
"At university, Hou continued to train and compete. But chess was not her priority:
She took a full course load, joined several extracurricular activities and devoted as
much time as possible to meeting people outside her sport "
"Hou admitted that she remains undertrained -- eager to compete with the very best yet
reluctant to devote herself to the singular pursuit of greatness and thus sacrifice other
areas of her life. "She told me she never really worked extremely hard," said Vladimir Kramnik,
the third-ranked player in the world. "And, of course, that's a big compliment to her --
never working like the professional male top players are doing and yet achieving so much." "
""If she wants to stay the best female player, she can probably do nothing," Kramnik said.
"If she wants to achieve her potential, she must concentrate fully on chess, at least for
the next few years. But she has to choose -- she can't study and compete. It's just too
tough -- the competition is too tough."
Some ignorant writers here, who pontificate about chess in China while being clueless
about its reality, may like to presume that China's government has compelled Hou Yifan
to work as hard as possible on chess to the exclusion of everything else. On the contrary,
like all the Chinese professional chess players, Hou Yifan's free to make her own decisions
about how much to train, when and where to play, and she keeps (after taxes) the money she wins.
Chess in China today is quite different from the state-controlled chess of the USSR.
Given her decision, we may never know how strong Hou Yifan could have become if
she had trained as hard as the top men in chess.