FIDE Women's World Championship: Ju Wenjun Strikes Twice, Leads With 2 Games To Go
Ju Wenjun leads the match with just two games to go. | Photo: Lewis Liu/FIDE

FIDE Women's World Championship: Ju Wenjun Strikes Twice, Leads With 2 Games To Go

Rakesh
IM Rakesh
|
40 | Chess Event Coverage

The 2020 women's world championship match was tilted in favor of the the challenger, Aleksandra Goryachkina (Russia), after eight games. But the world champion, Ju Wenjun (China), proved her mettle by winning the next two games.

After 10 games, Ju is just one point away from defending and retaining her title. She leads 5.5-4.5 with two games to go

You can follow the match with commentary by WFM Anna Cramling and other special guest hosts on Chess.com/TV. Besides the coverage on the official website, Chess.com relays the games here as part of our live portal. The games start at 3:30 p.m. local time, which is 8:30 a.m. CET, 2:30 a.m. Eastern and 11:30 p.m. (the day before) Pacific. More info here.


2020 Women's World Championship | Scores

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Score
1 Ju Wenjun 2584 2598 ½ ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ 0 1 1 . . 5.5
2 Aleksandra Goryachkina 2578 2548 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 1 0 0 . . 4.5

The challenger, Goryachkina won a fine game on home soil in game eight and was a favorite to bring home the world championship title. But the world champion Ju scored two consecutive wins in the following games and now leads. The players will have one last rest day tomorrow and the match will resume on Jan. 22.

Chess, Women's World Championship
The players shake hands to kick off game nine. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili/FIDE.

Ju, who was trailing by a game before game nine, wanted to make most of her last two white games. She avoided main lines and opening preparation altogether by playing something unusual with 1.Nf3 followed by 2.b3, an opening which definitely startled Goryachkina, who spent five minutes on move two.

Ju's plan was simple: Get a playable position out of the opening and start playing ambitiously in the middlegame. But her plan was thwarted by the challenger as managed to equalize comfortably thanks to Ju's innocuous opening choice.

Women's World Championship, Chess
Ju's plan of "whatever" was clearly visible. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili/FIDE.

The middlegame was quite topsy-turvy with both sides having good chances and making several mistakes. Ju gave up her rook for a bishop and a pawn in a position where both kings were under fire. Ju's king was severely unsafe and at one point Goryachkina could have gotten a big advantage (with 28...Qb4) and a two-point lead.

But nerves prevailed and the challenger managed to bundle it up to give back the material advantage. Then the time control approached, and she then traded queens to enter a slightly-minus but holdable minor-piece-endgame with equal material. 

After the time control, Ju showed her class and converted in Karpov-like style. The world champion equalized the match with 4.5-4.5 each.

Ju wins a highly complicated game. | Photo: Michael Friedman/FIDE.

With the scores tied, the match could have gone in any direction with three games to go. A win for either player could prove to be decisive. Both players in the world chess championship 2018 played it safe and decided to fight it out in the tiebreaks. But not Goryachkina. The young challenger has shown that she is ready to fight in any position and with either color. Game 10 started slowly but then something happened that no one could have predicted.

The players repeated their opening from game eight. But it was Ju who first deviated on move six with the topical 6...Bf5 in the exchange variation of the queen's gambit declined. The players looked well prepared and blitzed out a dozen more moves without burning much time on the clock.

In fact, the players repeated the same opening from Ganguly-L'Ami that happened yesterday at the Tata Steel Challengers event, only 16 hours before their game.

The world number-nine, Anish Giri, was quick to point it out.

The resulting positions from this opening gives White the luxury to play on for two results. But it's extremely difficult to break it down as Black has no weaknesses. The bishop is passive on g6 but it defends the black kingside pawns. The game witnessed all the characteristics of this opening.

White held the advantage until 24.b4, after which it simply evaporated as Black's passive rook gained access to the open file and it looked to be heading to a draw. But Goryachkina fought on. She sacrificed a pawn to enter Black's camp. She regained the pawn but still neither side had any significant advantage.

Chess, Women's World Championship
Goryachkina was pressing but didn't have anything substantial. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili/FIDE.

The players made the time control and everything looked calm. But, suddenly, the challenger seemed uneasy. She was visibly upset at missing a move (42...Be6). This move forced the trade of the bishops and it was only black who had a miniscule chance in the resulting rook endgame.

Goryachkina herself admitted it in the press conference: "I missed the move Be6, and then problems started to accumulate."

FIDE's chief marketing and communications officer had a premonition today.

The rook ending looked drawish but the challenger had to be careful. Goryachkina had to stop Black's passed c-pawn to hold the draw. Suddenly she blundered horribly with 53.Kb4. Her king was caught offside and the position was now winning for Black!

Ju pounced on the opportunity. She took her time to calculate the lines. She displayed her flawless technique to force resignation and reclaim her lead.

Chess, Women's World Championship
Ju Wenjun leads by a full point with two games to go. | Photo: Michael Friedman/FIDE.

As usual, there is a free day after two game days. The next game is on January 22.

The prize fund is 500,000 euros. The winner will earn 60 percent of the prize fund, and 40 percent will go to the runner-up. If the match ends in a tie after 12 games and a tiebreak decides the match, the winner will receive 55 percent and the runner-up, 45 percent.

The match is played over 12 standard games and, if needed, a rapid/blitz tiebreak. The time control for each game is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move one. A draw offer before move 40 is not allowed.

Watch our live coverage with WFM Anna Cramling and GM Pia Cramling below:


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