The Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival ended in dramatic fashion last week with a tie for first place between rising Chinese starlet Hou Yifan and English veteran Nigel Short, with both top-scoring on 8/10 to finish a half point clear of the chasing pack of Michael Adams, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Viktor Bologan and Emil Sutovsky.
However the tournament rules dictate that, in the event of a tie, the players have to play a series of speed playoff games, not only for the title but also for the first prize of $31,000 - and this duly went to the former world title challenger Short, who beat Hou, 1.5-0.5. And in addition to the $31,000 first prize, Short also won a further $8,000 for the Commonwealth prize, awarded in celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and only eligible to the top-scoring Commonwealth player.
Yet despite this being one of Short's best results in recent times, it was totally overshadowed by 17-year-old Hou's epoch-making performance on the Rock, as she not only pocketed the $19,000 second prize but also added herself a bonus of a further $16,000 for the best female performance - a prize that everyone expected Judit Polgar would easily win.
Reigning Women's World Champion Hou - who faced seven elite grandmasters rated 2700 or over - wowed the chess world with a performance that was pure Polgaresque in itself. As well as wins over chess legends Judit Polgar (the first time Polgar has lost to a woman since 1992 - to her eldest sister, Susan - when she was just 16) and Alexei 'Fire on Board' Shirov, she also beat Zoltan Almasi and Le Quang Liem, and drew with Adams and Mamedyarov for a tournament performance rating that went off the Richter scale for a woman at an astonishing 2872.
Hou is now the second highest rated female in the history of the game, and now closing in fast on Polgar. There has been speculative talk in the past year or so of a match between Polgar and Hou. Although Polgar has never competed in events limited to women, now suddenly the prospects of such a match-up has become "interesting".
FREE VIDEO: Dan Heisman's "Improve Your Chess"
National Master Dan Heisman is a name that is synonymous with excellence in chess coaching and teaching. Dan authors the award-winning Novice Nook column (winner of three Chess Journalists of America "Best Instruction" awards), aimed at improving adults, for chesscafe.com that are clearly written and offer very practical advice and tips on how to improve your game. More info about Dan can be found here.
In the new Improve Your Chess IV series, Dan provides instruction by reviewing amateur games played on ICC and showing where the players went wrong and how to improve.
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Book of the Year
There are two chess book awards that are eagerly sought by chess authors, and that's those that come from the English Chess Federation and ChessCafe.com. Both are equally deserving awards, with each having their own particular merits and particular method of selecting the winners.
Late last year, the ECF judging panel voted for Nunn's Chess Endings Volume 2 by Dr. John Nunn for their2011 Book of the Year award. And it was announced last week that, after two international voting rounds, the ChessCafe Book of the Year for 2011 went to Invisible Chess Moves by Emmanuel Neiman and Yochanan Afek. And as you can see in the ad underneath our menu, publishers New in Chess were quick off the mark in capitalizing on their new title. Congratulations to Emmanuel Neiman, Yochanan Afek and New in Chess!
2012: ICC iPad App Upgrade
2012 is the year of the great ICC giveaway, with FREE ICC apps for download! Everyone will be looking to play at the best online chess club with new holiday gifts of iPhones, iPads and Android phones. And here at ICC, such was the large response to our original free holiday offer we're extending it by making ALL of our mobile apps free for the time being.
One of the great benefits of ICC (apart from all the top-notch online play and tournaments) in recent years has been the upgrade in our popular Chess.FM service - many members agree that the live Chess.FM commentary plus GOTDs from our elite tournament coverage, and our regular weekly shows alone is worthy of their membership fee.
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