Ju Wenjun will not become Women’s World Champion in the next two weeks after 9th seed and her Chinese compatriot Tan Zhongyi knocked her out 1.5:0.5 in the quarterfinals. She will get a chance to play a match against the new champion early next year, though, after winning the Women’s FIDE Grand Prix series. Tan Zhongyi now plays Harika Dronavalli, who beat Nana Dzagnidze in tiebreaks. The other semi-final is between Anna Muzychuk, who beat Antoaneta Stefanova, and Alexandra Kosteniuk, who ended the dream of Ni Shiqun.
The quarterfinals were the quickest round of the event so far, with three matches requiring only a win and a draw in the classical games, while the one match that went to tiebreaks ended after the first two rapid games.
Let’s take them in turn, starting with the sensation!
Tan Zhongyi 1.5 – 0.5 Ju Wenjun
All good things come to an end! Ju Wenjun had been on a roll: she won the Women’s Grand Prix series then the £15,000 women’s top prize in Gibraltar (in fact she won a £3,000 rating band prize as well to reach £18,000 in winnings!). Her 2731 rating performance included beating Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan and crossing 2600 for the first time. She was the clear world no. 2 and could dream of catching her compatriot on the rating list.
She still can, of course, but her quarterfinal defeat saw her drop below 2600, while her opponent Tan Zhongyi has crossed the 2500 mark (and Anna Muzychuk is climbing fast!):
At 25, Tan Zhongyi is a year younger than Ju Wenjun and can boast of notable career successes, including winning the World Youth U10 and U12 Championships, the Chinese Championship and the Asian Rapid and Blitz Championships. Another success that may have had an impact in Tehran is that she defeated Ju Wenjun in the final of the knockout China Chess Queen tournament in 2015 that went all the way to Armageddon. It was meant to prepare Chinese players for World Championship knockout events, and at least in Tan Zhongyi’s case it seems to have succeeded!
If Tan Zhongyi was meant to be the underdog she didn’t show it, pushing hard for a win in the first game with the white pieces. She won a pawn but was unable to convert it into victory. Ju Wenjun then had the white pieces in the next game, but she was already in deep trouble after a misstep on move 15: