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Alumni Q&A: Yifan Hou (China & St Hilda's 2018)

Alumni Q&A: Yifan Hou (China & St Hilda's 2018)

Q: Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?

A: "I am currently working as a Professor at the PE Department of Shenzhen University, China. There are a few parts to the role:

1. Giving lectures to the students from the Sports Training Major who have decent chess backgrounds, so the content in the class is not only about professional chess knowledge, but also combining mindset, practical skills, physical training methods etc. In general the concept of my class is not only about the skills itself, but the learning methods. 

2. Organizing events and activities. We held an online World University Chess Invitational, the inviting teams included Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard etc. These kind of events aim to enhance the communication among global universities via chess and sports, and promote cross-cultural communications.   

3. Projects. There are a few school-level projects I am running that focus on innovative teaching methods. I'm also preparing some cross-field researches related to chess."

Apart from the job in the University, I have also participated in some chess tournaments myself in the past few months. For example, I have won our National Chess Games in July, representing China playing the Online Chess Olympiad etc. I'm still a chess player from time to time! Also, I have been the Adviser of the translation of the book The Queen's Gambit, which has just finished and the book will be published soon. There are also some other cross-fields collaborations I am involved in.  

Q: Has your career trajectory panned out as you planned?

A: "It is hard to give a clear answer to this question as I am still exploring and developing my career... I used to be a professional chess player, participating in tournaments and winning medals, but I have never thought that THIS was going to be my life-long career solely, though indeed chess is part of my life, and I hope that whatever I devote myself to in the future is something that has a deep connection with chess, direct or indirect. That is the reason I applied for Rhodes Scholarship and studied Public Policy at Oxford, as I was eager to learn in different fields, and try to understand the basic logic of how society works and try to build the foundation of my thoughts and view towards the world. 

The time at Rhodes and Oxford was fantastic, I have learned a lot, which has helped me think carefully about future paths. More importantly, it made me deeply realise the value of education, which shapes my own efforts of being an educator myself, in a more clear way. Now, after 1+ years college teaching experience, I think I will primarily follow this trajectory, as well as being open to career uncertainty and new opportunities."


Yifan Hou is a Chinese chess grandmaster, four time Women's World Chess Champion and the second highest rated female player of all time. A chess prodigy, she is the youngest female player ever to qualify for the title of grandmaster and the youngest ever to win the Women's World Chess Championship.  Read Hou Yifan and the Wait for Chess’s First Woman World Champion in the New Yorker. Yifan became a professor at Shenzhen University in 2020, at the age of 26.

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The Rhodes Scholar Blog features the excellent research from our Rhodes Scholars and their insights into important topical issues. If you would like to contribute, please contact sophie.crowe@rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk