Women's World Champs: Tan Not Giving Up
Ju leads 4-3 vs Tan after seven games. | Photo: Gu Xiaobing/official website.

Women's World Champs: Tan Not Giving Up

| 44 | Chess Event Coverage

With a win on Saturday Tan Zhongyi kept hopes alive to retain her title. After five decisive games there was finally another draw on Sunday resulting in a 4-3 lead for Ju Wenjun at the Women's World Championship

Thursday and Friday were dedicated to making the 1,600 km flight from Shanghai to Chongqing and to rest, but on Saturday the players were clearly ready for battle again. In the Sun Kingdom hotel Tan won her second game after 125 moves and six hours of play.

With what was already the third black win in the match, versus two white victories so far, Tan brought back the margin to one point. 

For the first time, Tan answered 1.d4 with 1...Nf6 but ...d7-d5 followed quickly. The game turned into a Catalan where a typical intermediate check on b4 had lured White's bishop to d2—a safer way of playing than in game three.

The first critical moment was on move 19, when Tan sacrificed her b-pawn ("to get a fight") but Ju refrained from taking it—which was perfectly possible. The official website reports that Ju "didn't see" 19.Qxb7, but it's more likely that the phrase "I didn't look at it" was inaccurately translated.

Ju Wenjun vs Tan Zhongyi game six

Ju and Tan involved in the longest game so far. | Photo: Gu Xiaobing/official website.

With 22.b3 she weakened her kingside too much and lost her advantage. Things were still under control until the dreaded 40th move. Under time pressure, Ju couldn't calculate the correct move 40.f4.

A pawn up, Tan decided that a queen endgame would offer her more chances than a rook endgame. Afterward it turned out that Ju didn't share that judgement, but nonetheless after a long battle she couldn't hold the queen ending.


Ju Wenjun claiming a draw vs Tan Zhongyi game six

Ju checking with the arbiters at which move (127 or 128) she could claim a draw. The claim was never made because 47 moves after 78...f5 the queens would be traded. | Photo: Gu Xiaobing/official website.

In game seven Tan returned to 1.d4, after having tried 1.e4 in her previous White game. That was a devastating loss in the Bishop Opening, so no big surprise there!

Probably expecting her opponent to appear at the board better prepared against the Torre Attack, 2.c4 was Tan's choice this time. What we got was a Nimzo-Indian, Ju's main defense.

The line 4.Nf3 in combination with 5.e3 is not very common, and Ju had never faced the latter move. It seems that, again, Tan was mostly avoiding her opponent's preparation.

This strategy had a downside today: Tan didn't get much out of the opening. At some point everything got exchanged.

Tan Zhongyi

In the last three games Tan will need at least "plus one." | Photo: Gu Xiaobing/official website.

Incidentally, the performance rating of the players after seven games is exactly that of their ratings, meaning that 4-3 is mathematically expected between players with these particular ratings.

Match score

Name Fed Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
Ju Wenjun 2571 2571 ½ 1 1 0 1 0 ½ . . . 4.0
Tan Zhongyi 2522 2522 ½ 0 0 1 0 1 ½ . . . 3.0

The remaining three games will be played on May 15, 16 and 18. The match has moved to Chongqing, where it is sponsored by Lander Sports, a company involved in developing, constructing, and managing sporting facilities and financing sports events.

The prize fund of the match is €200,000 ($239,210) with 60 percent going to the winner and 40 percent to the loser. In case of a tiebreak (scheduled for 19 May), the money will be split 55-45 percent.

Games via TWIC.

Correction: an earlier version of this story erroneously said that before resigning, Ju tried to claim a draw based on the 50-move rule.

Previous reports:

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