Ju Wenjun Knocked Out Of Women's World Championship

Ju Wenjun Knocked Out Of Women's World Championship

JovankaHouska
IM JovankaHouska
Feb 22, 2017, 12:00 AM |
38 | Chess.com News

The women's world championship in Tehran saw a huge sensation with the elimination of Ju Wenjun. The top seed was defeated by her compatriot Tan Zhongyi. 

Harika Dronavalli, Anna Muzychuk and Alexandra Kosteniuk are the other semi-finalists.

Tan Zhongyi eliminated the top seed. Photo David Llada.

The quarterfinals:

With the disappearance of more players round by round, the tournament has ceased to resemble a mad dash to the next post; it's now a slow long drawn out marathon.

Think of all the nerves! Some of the remaining contestants, namely Harika Dronavalli and Tan Zhongyi have gone for days playing non-stop chess—and who says chess isn’t a sport! 

There are eight pieces of chess and eight players were left to slog it out in this “women of steel” contest.  Unsurprisingly, they comprised of the seven of the top 10 seeds: GMs Ju Wenjun, Anna Muzychuk, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Harika Dronavalli, Nana Dzagnidze, Antoaneta Stefanova plus ninth seed Tan Zhongyi and the surprise of the tournament, 39th seed WGM Ni Shiqun.

Pairings and results:

Sq

Quarter Finals

 

 Sq

 

1

Ju Wenjun

0.5-1.5

 9

 Tan Zhongyi

4

Harika Dronavalli

2.5-1.5

 5

Dzagnidze, Nana

2

Muzychuk Anna

1.5-0.5

 7

Stefanova Antoaneta

3

Kosteniuk Alexandra

1.5-0.5

 39

Ni Shiqun

 

“One win to end them all." The golden game matches:

With the players all so closely matched in rating, I really expected that the matches would be decided in the tiebreaks and perhaps, if we were very lucky, we might get the cheap thrill of an Armageddon match!  In fact what happened was a little surprising: Three of the four matches were decided by one victory.

Match 1: Ju Wenjun (CHN) 0.5 – 1.5 Tan Zhongyi (CHN):

Good concentration requires a good winter coat! Tan Zhongyi in action. | Photo David Llada.

In my previous report I mentioned that I was looking forward to seeing how the Chinese teammates,  who are the same age, would fare against each other. Of course, the heavy favourite had to be Ju Wenjun, who had started 2017 with a fantastic result in Gibraltar and a 2600 rating. In a similar vein, she had also started the world championship in powerful form, although her third-round match to Olga Girya hadn’t been as convincing. 

WGM Tan Zhongyi, probably the world’s highest-rated WGM, did not have such an auspicious start, narrowly surviving a hair-raising Armageddon match against the European champion Anna Ushenina. The two had played 31 games against each other with Tan defeating Ju in an Armageddon match in 2015.

Things did not go exactly to plan for Ju in the first round when she was lucky to draw as Black in the following position.

Despite this not being the ideal way to begin, things were not exactly a disaster as Ju had White in the second game and could press for the victory as much as she wanted. That was the plan but what happened next was entirely unexpected.

Preparation, preparation, preparation:

Tan later told the press that she had come to the match with a very specific game plan—she believed that Ju would be looking to beat her in the classical matches.  This meant that Tan’s plan would be to provoke her opponent to step out of her comfort zone and force Ju to play as aggressively as possible. It was a risky plan but boy, did it work.

Although Ju Wenjun leaves the tournament, she gets a second shot at becoming world champion, when at the end of 2017 she will challenge the winner of this knockout in a match for the title.

Match 2: Anna Muzychuk (UKR) 1.5 -0.5 Antoaneta Stefanova (BUL):

Getting ready for their first game Anna Muzychuk (left) Antoaneta Stefanova.Photo David Llada.

It's no big secret that Anna Muzychuk desperately wants to become the new women’s world champion. While Anna's sister Mariya, the 2015 champion, had not been prepared to play in Iran, Anna did not want to let go of her dream.

Anna has proven to be one of the most excellently prepared participants, defeating all her opponents in the classical matches rather comfortably. Facing Muzychuk was 2004 women’s world champion Antoaneta Stefanova, an experienced match player with a string of world titles to her name.

The first game started promisingly in Muzychuk’s favor after Stefanova self-destructed in a level position, putting Muzychuk in an excellent position to qualify for the first time ever into the semi-finals.

All or nothing:

Needing to win on demand is no mean feat and playing with the white pieces, Stefanova pushed hard as she could to reach the following position:

Match 3: Alexandra Kosteniuk (RUS) – 1.5-0.5 Ni Shiqun (CHN):

Kosteniuk, deep in thought.Photo David Llada.

Ni Shiqun (remember that name!) had been the complete surprise of the tournament, dispatching all her opponents with relative ease. However, this time her opponent was the 2006 women’s world champion and the 2016 Russian women’s champion Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Kosteniuk, an experienced world championship veteran and combative player, knew exactly how to dispatch of her young opponent—holding the easy draw with Black and managing to grind out a long win as White. Very professional work by Kosteniuk, who had joked that she had only expected to last until round three.

Match 4: Harika Dronavalli (IND)  2.5-1.5 Nana Dzagnidze (GEO):

Harika with her biggest fan—her grandmother!Photo David Llada.

The most exciting match up was definitely the fight between the fourth and fifth seeds, GMs Harika Dronavalli and Nana Dzagnidze.  Harika had been having a gruelling time of things having participated in three playoffs. It did seem though that she had stumbled upon some kind of winning formula: to win all her white tiebreak games!

Dzagnidze on the other hand had a very shaky first round, but seemed to be picking up her momentum, relying on her sharp calculation skills and intense focus.

Harika, playing White, struck first after Dzagnidze chose a dubious opening:

Dzagnidze duly punched back.

This led to a Harika's fourth tiebreak, where once again Harika managed to pull off her trademark speciality of winning with White in the tiebreaks! Things looked like they were going to be settled peacefully until this occurred:

This win allowed her to accept a draw in a winning position to win the playoff and secure her spot into the next round.

The semifinals preview:

 

 

Tan Zhongyi

 

Harika Dronavalli

Muzychuk Anna

 

Kosteniuk Alexandra

 

Again we have two interesting match-ups. I fully expect a huge theoretical duel between old rivals Muzychuk and Kosteniuk. I will also be curious as to whether tiredness will begin to set in for Harika and Tan Zhongyi who, in this tournament, have racked up a lot of high adrenaline encounters.

The personal score according to my database is 6-2 in favour of Tan Zhongyi, but we shall see! 

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