Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan (2644 Elo) played a shocking game in the final round of the Tradewise Gibraltar chess tournament, resigning after just 5 moves – the quickest loss by a Grandmaster.
Of more interest was just how bad those 5 moves were and why she played them.
Playing White against Indian GM Babu Lalith (2584), Hou Yifan opened with the rarely seen 1.g4. GM Lalith calmly played 1…d5 then came the shocking 2.f3?? Note that if Babu had played 1…e5, this would lead to Fool’s Mate with 2…Qh4#
Sensing something strange was going on, GM Lalith played 2…e5, Hou Yifan made a flight square for her King with 3.d3 and Black checked with his Queen on h4. Already, this is a winning advantage for Black – one a GM would easily convert.
2 more moves and Hou Yifan resigned. Obviously she had played these terrible moves intentionally – but why?
After the game we found out. Hou Yifan was annoyed with what she viewed as disrespectful pairings – she had faced 7 women in 10 rounds, a statistically unlikely event given the majority of participants were male.
However, Hou Yifan’s fears were misplaced. All of the pairings were made by a computer based on the usual factors: previous results, rating, colours played and so on. There was no bias; there was no conspiracy.
Hou Yifan apologised for her protest – an action that seems quite out of character for a popular, normally calm player.
This bizarre incident gives us a new record (the previous quickest loss by a Grandmaster was by Viswanathan Anand, incredibly, who resigned after just 6 moves after dropping a piece in his 1988 game against GM Alonso Zapata) and a hypothetical question: would Hou Yifan have played 2.f3 if GM Babu Lalith had played 1…e5?