Lufei Ruan lost the woman’s world chess championship Friday, but acquaintances in Pittsburgh say she gained international recognition for herself and the city with her remarkable climb to the tournament final.
“The whole chess world is stunned right now,” said Alexander Shabalov, 47, a four-time U.S. chess champion from Squirrel Hill.
“Basically, she jumped way over her head. She was pretty much a few moves away from becoming a world champion, which is every chess player’s dream. I’m sure it’s just a heartbreaker for her.”
Ruan, 23, a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, lost the title in a tie-breaker to chess prodigy Hou Yifan, 16. Both played for the Chinese team in the tournament held in Hatay, Turkey.
In an e-mail, Ruan said she was happy to have performed well but exhausted after playing for nearly a month with one day’s rest.
“I think there are three reasons why she beat me,” Ruan said. “Firstly, she is really a good player, and unlike me, she plays chess every day. Secondly, I played tie-break in every round, so I have played for 20 days with only one day rest. Finally, she has two coaches here, but I’m fighting alone. My coach is in China.”
Kevin Mo, 15, a chess master from Franklin Park, said Ruan mainly competed against professional players. He found it remarkable that she beat all but one. Mo lost a game to Ruan last month and said he followed her every move in the tournament through the Internet.
“For her to balance studying and playing in the tournament, and for her to get this far is quite impressive,” said the 10th-grader at North Allegheny High School. “It’s good for chess in Pittsburgh. We now have a world championship contender here in Pittsburgh.”
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