India takes defeat on board as China wins

In the growing rivalry between the emerging superpowers, China and India, Beijing scored a symbolic victory on Thursday - on the chess board.

Hou Yifan, 17, easily kept the Women's World Chess Championship title when she drew the eighth game of a match against Humpy Koneru, the best Indian woman to play the game. The final score of the best-of-10 match was 5.5 points to 2.5 points.

Hou became the youngest world champion in history last year when she was 16. The match against Koneru, 24, was Hou's first defence of the title.

In some ways, the match was a competition between nations as well as players. In recent years, the Chinese have dominated women's chess, but the overall world champion is Viswanathan Anand, of India. Koneru had a chance to make India the holder of the chess world's most important titles. Although Hou is ranked No. 3 in the world among women and Koneru is No. 2, Hou was a slight favourite because she had beaten Koneru in the semifinals of last year's championship as well as the one in 2008.

Hou said she could not explain why she had performed so well against Koneru. But it may be, she said, that she is more comfortable on the attack, and Koneru is better at long-term strategy.

Although Hou is the world champion, Judit Polgar, a Hungarian, is the best female player and the only woman to ever be ranked among the world's top 10.

But she does not play in competitions that are limited to women, which is why she has never won the women's title.

One theory about Polgar's success is that she has raised the level of her game by competing only against the best players, who happen to be men.