Women's World Chess Championship: Ju Wenjun Strikes 1st
The reigning women's world champion, Ju Wenjun, scored the first win of the match and leads after four games. | Photo: Lewis Liu/FIDE

Women's World Chess Championship: Ju Wenjun Strikes 1st

| 59 | Chess Event Coverage

The 2020 women's world championship match between the reigning champion Ju Wenjun (China) and the challenger Aleksandra Goryachkina (Russia) started with three draws before Ju won with the white pieces in game four. After a rest day, play continues on Saturday. 

After round six, the match will shift to Vladivostok, Russia.

You can follow the match with commentary provided by WFM Anna Cramling and other special guest hosts on Besides the coverage on the official website, 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 . . . . . . . .
2 Aleksandra Goryachkina 2578 2499 ½ ½ ½ 0 . . . . . . . .

The match started with two fighting draws, and game three was no different.  Goryachkina, the young Russian challenger, once again put pressure on the Chinese world champion like in game one. Goryachkina repeated the same opening from game one but Ju, playing Black, was the first one to deviate and as early as move four. She chose a topical line in the queen's gambit declined—The San Sebastian variation, a line that has been played frequently at the top level in recent years.

The players seemed to be following a top game, Ivanchuk-Etienne Bacrot, Cap D'Agde (rapid, 2013) until Ju chose a different move with 17...Rfd8. This move was last seen in Moranda-Kveinys, Polanica Zdroj, 2013. Then Goryachkina made the first new move in the position with 18.Rab1.

The challenger turned up the heat in game three. | Photo: Lewis Liu/FIDE.

Goryachkina erred slightly in the middlegame but Ju couldn't capitalize and soon found herself under some pressure. Goryachkina's perseverance paid off as she ended up in the driver's seat when she won the weakened b6 pawn, and then got a passed pawn in the center of the board. With the first time control approaching at move 40, Goryachkina traded into a rook endgame, which saw all her advantage evaporate. She played on for 85 moves before they shook hands. Ju survived more than a scare!

GMs Nigel Short and Oleg Romanishin, part of the appeals committee, analyze the game backstage. Photo: Michael Friedman/FIDE.
The challenger tried but the world champion survived. | Photo: Michael Friedman/FIDE.
Unlike her first game as White, Ju chose 1.d4, the move that Ju has played almost all her life. She has more than 250 games of experience with this move, her top choice. Once again it was Ju who chose to deviate from their previous game as she had chosen 1.e4 in game two.
Gui Jinsong, the director of the mass sports department of the Shanghai sports bureau, makes the ceremonial first move in game four. | Photo: Lewis Liu/FIDE.

Ju's decision of switching was justified as she couldn't break her challenger's Berlin wall in game two. The players went down a relatively lesser-known line in the Slav defense, an opening which is Goryachkina's main weapon against the queen's pawn opening. She had employed the standard Slav with 5...Bf5 in three games with plus-two in 2019. But she deviated to a setup that she only employed once against Maxim Matlakov in 2018, where she held the draw.

Ju came prepared with an idea and played 10.d5, which encourages mass exchanges and gives an open center. The players blitzed out their moves until move 16 but it was Ju who once again knew more in the opening than her counterpart. 

The world champion Ju Wenjun struck in game four and now leads.| Photo: Lewis Liu/FIDE.

The players were following the game of the former world champion Veselin Topalov, as Kantor-Topalov (Gibraltar, 2013) saw 13...Bf6 instead of the Russian's Bf5.

Until Goryachkina played the "new move" 20...Kf8, Ju had the same time as she started with and had her first real long think on move 21. The other recapture, 20...Rf8 was seen in an GM open in Al Yaghshi-Kuybokarov (Dubai, 2017).

This was the first game where Ju got an initiative and tried putting the young Russian under pressure. The latter seemed to hold her own and defend well as she was quite close to equality. Ju tried pressing in the queen ending again by pushing her pawns on the queenside. Goryachkina could have held the draw with precise counterplay on the kingside. She had about 33 minutes on the clock but played fast and miscalculated the resulting king-and-pawn endgame.

Ju missed her chance once but grabbed it at the second attempt to score an all-important win on home soil to take the lead.

Friday is a rest day, which is the case after each set of two games. After game six, there will be two extra free days when the match moves from Shanghai to Vladivostok, Russia.

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 matters, 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 the women's world championship game four coverage with WFM Anna Cramling-Bellon and GM Pia Cramling below:

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