Ju Wenjun Takes Lead In Women's World Championship
Ju Wenjen leads the women's world championship.

Ju Wenjun Takes Lead In Women's World Championship

| 37 | Chess Event Coverage

Ju Wenjun beat Tan Zhongyi in the second game of the women's world championship in Shanghai after the first game had ended in a draw. The €200,000 ($238,451) match is being played half in Shanghai and half in Chongqing, China.

It was a deafening silence from FIDE about this women's world championship in the period towards the match. It's unclear whether it's a preoccupation with its bank problems or a general disinterest in giving women's chess more exposure. What is clear is that the world chess federation has seriously under-marketed the most important even of the year for female chess players.

No pre-match announcement appeared on FIDE's website; the minimalistic official website appeared at the last minute and so far this writer hasn't seen any press release. The federation also didn't send an official to the opening ceremony except for one of its vice presidents, Boris Kutin, who needed to be there anyway as member of the appeals committee.

Women's world championship press conference

The opening press conference on Wednesday. | Photo: Gu Xiaobing/official website.

The Chinese Chess Association is doing its regular, outstanding job in organizing, albeit from a Chinese perspective. For example, they only arranged live commentary in Mandarin.

Tweets of GM Ian Rogers have been helpful getting some more information. For instance, he reported about strict security measures (much stricter than during e.g. the Candidates' Tournament in Berlin) such as that the players are not allowed to bring pens or watches. 

The location is a no-brainer, since both match players are from China: reigning champion GM Tan Zhongyi (2522, world number 10), and challenger GM Ju Wenjun (2571, world number two). Both were born in 1991; Ju on January 31 and Tan on May 29.

Tan is the reigning women's world champion; she won the knockout world championship in February 2017 in Tehran, where she beat GM Anna Muzychuk in the final. By then, she already knew her opponent in the match, because two months earlier Ju had qualified as the winner of the 2015-2016 Women’s FIDE Grand Prix series.

The match is played over 10 games, with the first five being played in Shanghai (where Ju was born), and the next five (and possibly the tiebreak) in Chongqing, where Tan is from.

Tan Zhongyi

Reigning women's world champion Tan Zhongyi. | Photo: Gu Xiaobing/official website.

Ju Wenjun

Challenger Ju Wenjun. | Photo: Gu Xiaobing/official website.

There's obviously a faint shadow of Hou Yifan over this match. Also from China, the 24-year-old grandmaster is 87 Elo points ahead of Ju in the rating list. In May 2016 she dropped out of the world championship cycle after expressing her disappointment about the women's world championship cycle, and then she also declined to participate in Tehran last year.

The match started on Thursday in the Intercontinental Hotel Puxi, along the Wusong river and near the historic centre of Shanghai, with a tense game. Tan surprised her opponent with a sideline of the Queen's Gambit Accepted and did well to defend a slightly worse position.

Ju Wenjun Tan Zhongyi women's world championship game 1

Game one in action. | Photo: Gu Xiaobing/official website.

Before the match, the two players had only played 16 classical games against each other. Tan had won three vs. two for Ju, and 10 draws. Today Ju equalized the score, and grabbed the lead with a win with the black pieces.

Playing 1...e5 for the first time against the English, it was her time to surprise and it worked well. She equalized comfortably and then got a strong initiative in an endgame with heavy pieces.

Tan again defended well, initially, but in time trouble she stumbled in a double-rook endgame and then came one tempo short.


Three more games will be played in Shanghai, on May 6, 7 and 9. The five games in Chongqing are scheduled for May 12, 13, 15, 16 and 18.
The prize fund of the match is €200,000 ($238,451) with 60 percent going to the winner and 40 percent of the loser. In case of a tiebreak, the money will be split 55-45 percent.

Games via TWIC.

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