Apr 14, 2014 6:00PM

Born In 94: Chess Champion Hou Yifan Shot by Ren Hang

From Oyster #104 — The Exposed Issue!
20-year-old Hou Yifan is the reigning Women's World Chess Champion. She was also born in 94 — like us! We spoke to her about fashion and (of course) chess, in Oyster 104: The Exposed Issue — out now! And who better to shoot her than the Chinese art world's most notorious nudity-loving photographer, Ren Hang, whose work is pretty much banned in Beijing? (Watch out for our interview with him soon). 
Birthday: 27 February 1994
Birthstone: Amethyst
Star sign: Pisces
Ruling planet: Jupiter
Element: Water
Zac Bayly: How old were you when you started playing chess?
Yifan Hou: Five-and-a-half years old. But I didn't start playing seriously until I was more like eleven or twelve.
Wow! When you first became a chess Grandmaster did you throw a party?
Oh no. I find parties so stressful! That's no way to celebrate. Titles don't really matter anyway — it's your chess rating that matters. Whatever you are or not, it is more important to show your skill than to have a fancy title. If one day I can reach a rating of 2700 or higher then maaaybe I'll have a party. Maybe!
So, do you and your friends talk about chess all the time?
[Laughs] Definitely not! Definitely not. We spend a lot of time talking about other things, like in any other sport. We talk about sports news and if we've travelled we talk about the local civilisations or local traditions. And, say, with the girls we are talking about something like fashion. I'm not quite fashionable. They're more fashion than me! I mean, when I was young...
When you were young they were teasing you about fashion?
Yes. When I started playing in tournaments I was very young — I was eleven years old, which is a bit young to know a lot of fashion things. So, I learned from the older players.
Don't listen to them — you're super chic, Yifan!
Thank you!
What are your tips for other young chess players?
Well, if she's quite interested in chess then firstly I'm very glad to hear that. And I think she should — most importantly — keep her energy on it, but also an education in other areas is very important too. She needs to improve herself by learning more about chess, because although they only have this chessboard and these pieces, that's quite... I mean, it's a big thing!
And should they practice online?
Computer chess programs are so strong these days that they will damage your confidence! When you play chess with a real person, you're not just playing a game — you're having a conversation with someone. Chess is like life. You need to play with real people in the real world. You learn from your and others' mistakes.
Photography: Ren Hang
Fashion: Mia Kong
Hair: Li Chunyu
Makeup: Pan Lifei