2020 Women’s Chess Championship (Ju vs. Goryachkina)

2020 Women’s World Chess Championship
January 3rd-11th, 2020 (Shanghai, China & Vladivostok, Russia)
 
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1
2
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4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
pts.
Ju Wenjun
China
½
½
½
1
0
½
½
0
1
1
½
0
6
Goryachkina
Russia
½
½
½
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1
½
½
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½
1
6

Tiebreaks
 
1
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Ju Wenjun
½
½
1
½
Goryachkina
½
½
0
½
Drum Coverage

PREVIEW

Today will see the beginning of the World Championship, but not the one that has been discussed in past months. Unfortunately, the World Women’s Championship has not seen as much anticipation and very little publicity has been presented. Nevertheless, defending champion Ju Wenjun of China will face the challenger, 21-year old sensation Aleksandra Goryachkina of Russia.

The match represents the two preeminent chess powers in the women’s circuit. Since 2000, China has dominated the women’s world championship with six champions: Xie Jun (1999-2001), Zhu Chen (2001-2004), Xu Yuhua (2006-2008), Hou Yifan (2010-2012, 2013-2015, 2016-2017), Tan Zhongyi (2017-2018) and Ju Wenjun (2018). The other champions during this period were: Russia’s Antoaneta Stefanova (2004-2006), Alexandra Kosteniuk (2008-2010), Anna Ushenina (2012-2013), Mariya Muzychuk (2015-2016), the latter two from the Ukraine.

Ju Wenjun receiving her championship trophy November 23rd, 2018
after defeating Kateryna Lagno in Khanty-Mansisyk
Photo by ugrafide2018.com

This year will mark the first year that the cycle will revert back to biennial matches instead of the knockout events. It should be noted that former champion Hou Yifan lost her title in 2012 during the knockout tournament. Ushenina won the title. Hou returned next year and won the title a second time in a rout over Ushenina 5½-1½. She held the title until 2015 only to nix defending in the knockout because of a conflict in scheduling. She returned in 2016 and won for the 3rd time, but later announced she would withdraw from the cycle altogether due to her opposition to the knockout format and the desire to play against stronger competition.

Aleksandra Goryachkina
Photo by allsportspk.com

The question of separate tournaments has resurfaced once again as the push for equal conditions has gained some momentum. The prize fund of this match (500,000 euros) is much more generous than past championship matches. Hou Yifan’s 10-game match against Muzychuk in Lviv, Ukraine was 200,000 euros. The present prize fund represents a significant increase.

The women’s champion has an automatic berth in a qualifying event (World Cup) to compete for the overall championship. During the last cycle there was a conflict with the Women’s Grand Prix tournament. Aleksandra Goryachkina qualified and then won the Women’s Candidates tournament with a dominating performance. She is Russia’s hope to bring the title back home since Kosteniuk did it as a 24-year old.

MATCH DETAILS

The first half or six games of the competition will be held in Shanghai, China ending on January 12th. The other half (also six games) will resume in Vladivostok, Russia on January 16th. The first player to 6.5 will be declared the winner without having to play the remaining games. The advantage will then be with the champion. If the score is 6:6 at the end of 12 games, a rapid (and if necessary blitz) playoff will serve as the tiebreaker.

Shohreh Bayat of Iran will serve as the International Arbiter of the match. Bayta, a Women’s FIDE Master, is also a Natural Resources Engineer by profession. An excellent interview was conducted by Kenya Chess Masala here. Photo by FIDE

The two sites bring an added element. Ju will hope to capitalize off of the familiarity of the environment and overwhelming national support. However, such comforts do not guarantee success. In fact, Ju’s own victories against Ushenina in the Ukraine and Lagno in Russia are examples. We also remember that Viswanathan Anand won against Veselin Topalov in Bulgaria, yet lost in India against Magnus Carlsen.

SHANGHAI

January 3rd Arrival
January 4th Opening Ceremony & Technical Meeting
January 5th Game 1
January 6th Game 2
January 7th Free day
January 8th Game 3
January 9th Game 4
January 10th Free day
January 11th Game 5
January 12th Game 6
January 13th Departure

VLADIVOSTOK

January 14th Arrival
January 15th Opening Ceremony & Technical Meeting
January 16th Game 7
January 17th Game 8
January 18th Free day
January 19th Game 9
January 20th Game 10
January 21st Free day
January 22nd Game 11
January 23rd Game 12
January 24th Tie-break (if needed) or
Closing Ceremony (depending on the match’s end)
January 25th Closing Ceremony (if tie-break is needed)
January 26th Departure

Official Site: https://wwcm2020.fide.com/
Match Regulations: https://handbook.fide.com/ (PDF)
Games (ChessBase): http://live.chessbase.com/watch/FIDE-WWCC-2020

Live Games & Commentary

The games will start 3:30 p.m. Shanghai/Vladivostok, which is 8:30 a.m. CET, 2:30 a.m. Eastern and 11:30 p.m. Pacific. Chess.com will be covering the action as well as relays from a number of chess servers.

Daaim Shabazz

Dr. Daaim Shabazz is the creator and webmaster of The Chess Drum. He serves as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds an MBA in Marketing and a doctorate in International Affairs & Development. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

19 Comments

  1. Game 1
    5th January 2020
    Goryachkina ½-½ Ju

    Video by FIDE

    Match Score: Ju ½ – Goryachkina ½

  2. Game 2
    5th January 2020
    Ju ½-½ Goryachkina

    International Arbiter Shohreh Bayat of Iran starts the proceeding for Game 2
    Photo by Zhang Yanhong

    There was a surprise in today’s second game of the championship match. While we didn’t see 1.h3 or 1.a3, Ju Wenjun tried to catch her Russian challenger off guard with 1.e4! Bobby Fischer once said 1.e4 is “best by test.” Of course things have changed and the move has been toward more universal play.

    Ju faced the Berlin and actually got nothing special after facing a novelty 12…c6. However, Aleksandra Goryachkina took a risk by playing 17…Bf5 when Ju could’ve played 18.g4! with an increase in space on the king side. After several piece exchanges the game ended quietly with another draw.

    Ju’s opening salvo can be taken as a “feeling out” of her opponent. Of course, there are not too many games in which to assess the weakness while playing in a hospitable environment. While Ju has proven she can win on foreign soil, it would be risky to settle for quiet positions and wait for her young opponent to stumble.

    Lastly, there has not been much international coverage of the event. If you examine the Twittersphere, there are a few Tweets by FIDE and some other outlets but there is no attention being paid to this match. With Tata Steel right around the corner (and Magnus Carlsen playing), this will mire the match in the background.

    In the largest prize fund in women’s history they will have to improve on the quality of the media coverage. There have been no spectators at the venue according to British Grandmaster Nigel Short, and that doesn’t bode well for the women’s circuit.

    Video by FIDE

    Match Score: Ju 1 – Goryachkina 1

  3. Game 3
    7th January 2020
    Goryachkina ½-½ Ju

    Goryachkina peeks at Ju who was under pressure throughout the game.

    Another draw in today’s encounter keeps the match even. Ju Wenjun is the reigning champion, but had to suffer in the third game to keep the match level. Aleksandra Goryachkina got the early initiative putting Ju on her heels. The Chinese player could’ve gained strong initiative with 23…Ne5!

    Both Nigel Short and Zhang Xiaowen analyzed some critical lines concluding the tide would turn. Unfortunately, Ju played a more cautious continuation 23…Rdc8 and was forced to defend the rest of the game. After the seemingly obvious move, Short was discussing the intense pressure of a championship.

    Goryachkina kept the initiative after winning a pawn with heavy pieces remaining. Would Ju overly cautious play put her in the hole? As the game transpired, Goryachkina was trying to hard to force the advantage, but began to run short of time. She continued to hold the edge but allowed Ju to steer the game into an easily drawn ending.

    Ju Wenjun had for fight for 85 moves to survive
    Photo by Zhang Yanhong

    This game is a bad omen for Ju as she is playing cautiously and seems to be lacking decisiveness. She was clearly losing, missed a tactic to turn the tables and ended up under pressure for 50 moves. If she falls behind going to Russia, it will be difficult to rebound from such a deficit. It may be that Game 4 will be the key. It is doubtful that Ju will use her white game with 1.e4, but look for more surprises.

    Video by FIDE

    Match Score: Ju 1½ – Goryachkina 1½

  4. Game 4
    8th January 2020
    Ju 1-0 Goryachkina

    Goryachkina played 24…f6 putting the game in serious danger.

    Ju Wenjun pulled out front with a decisive victory with the white pieces after Aleksandra Goryachkina was unable to plug holes in her defense. White enjoyed the smallest of advantages throughout the opening, but started to increase her grip on space. The game had a minimum of pieces, but it was rich in complications. At the stodgy part of the game Nigel Short and Zhang Xiaowen were critical of black’s play, particularly the moved 24…f6?

    This horribly weakened the light squares and restricted the mobility of the bishop. There were so many tactical problems with black’s exposed king and weakened structures. In addition to the weaknesses, black would most certainly have to trade queens, but this would allow white to place a rook on the seventh with winning chances.

    Goryachkina panicked with 50…Qxe7 and Ju calculated the position to win.

    Black managed to get the rooks off, but the white queen soon ruled the board. The black bishop was ineffective, so black traded it off, but had to concede another weakness in her pawn structure. Goryachkina seemed to be trading one weakness for another. Certainly a queen ending may give her the best chances to draw, but the black queen became terribly overloaded to various weaknesses.

    Goraychkina begin to run out of ideas to defend the position and attempted fate by going into a pawn ending. Interestingly, Ju missed a chance to win earlier with 46.Qxe7+ and winning the ensuing ending. Neither saw the win. They repeated the patter and this time, Ju had calculated a win after black offered an exchange of queens after 50…Qe7 51.Qxe7+! Kxe7 52.g4!

    After this the Chinese player executed the ending very precisely and there were a lot of instructive moment such as the point in which black’s king had to realize that white queens with check at the end of a race. This would be a crushing loss for Goryachkina after having her chances in the previous game. The pressure now will be on the Russian team to find a way to equalize before the match moves to Russia. They will have a rest day before the fifth game of the match.

    Video by FIDE

    Match Score: Ju 2½ – Goryachkina 1½

  5. Game 5
    10th January 2020
    Goryachkina 1-0 Ju

    Aleksandra Goryachkina leveled the score just after falling behind after yesterday’s loss. This gives her a psychological boost after the match moves to Russia. It was also her first win against Ju Wenjun.

    Aleksandra Goryachkina
    Photo by Ivan Kurinnoy

    Ju surprised Goryachkina with 1.e4 in game 2 and the Russian had a surprise of her own with 1.c4!? They entered a sharp line in the English, but Ju was up to the task and achieved a comfortable position. However, after a forcing sequence of moves after 16.Qb5+, the Chinese player ended up exposing her king and losing the exchange for a pawn. While the commentators felt the position was grim, Ju actually had her chance to steal 1/2-point.

    She was able to create counterplay with and advanced d-pawn which tied up the white rooks. However, instead of playing 34…Nc4 tying up white to the defense against advancing the pawn, Ju played 34…Nc6?? allowing white time to corral the pawn and readying to push her own pawns. Very unfortunate mistake by the champion and the match is now level.

    Video by FIDE

    Match Score: Ju 2½ – Goryachkina 2½

  6. Game 6
    11th January 2020
    Ju ½-½ Goryachkina

    Another hard-fought battle in today’s action at the World World Chess Championship in Shanghai, China. It would be the last game in the first leg of the match. Aleksandra Goryachkina must feel satisfied with the status of the match given that she was able to level the score after losing the fourth game. It was her first victory which should give her confidence an added boost.

    On the other hand, Ju Wenjun did not impress today and got nothing against the Russian’s Berlin Defense. In fact, black was slightly better throughout the middle and toward the end had a good knight versus bad bishop scenario. This phase of the game lasted 40 moves and while eventually drawn, sent a strong message to Ju. Her young opponent will be tough to beat and is gaining confidence.

    Ju had to fight 105 moves in order to make a draw with her young opponent. Isn’t it supposed to be the champion who applies the pressure to the challenger? Perhaps this is part of an overall strategy, but time is running short. Ju may have saved her analysis by playing 1.e4 twice, so we’ll have to see what will happen with her white games. The two have battled for an average of 73 moves per game! Will youth and physical fitness play a factor in the second half?

    Video by FIDE

    Match Score: Ju 3 – Goryachkina 3

  7. 2020 Women’s World Chess Championship
    January 3rd-11th, 2020 (Shanghai, China & Vladivostok, Russia)
     
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    1
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    Ju Wenjun
    China
    ½
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    1
    0
    ½
    3
    Goryachkina
    Russia
    ½
    ½
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    0
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    3
    Drum Coverage

    Ju-Goryachkina even 3-3 in title match

    The Women’s World Chess Championship is at the midway point with the match score tied at 3-3. Thus far, the match has been hard-fought with the average game lasting 73 moves. Aleksandra Goryachkina has actually had more chances against the defending champion Ju Wenjun.

    The games have been tense with the Russian missing winning chances in a few of the games. Ju is fortunate not to be behind in the match. She has tried 1.e4 in two white games with no success against the Berlin. One may think that she may be hiding some of the preparation that is still being done by her team.

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    Ju Wenjun and Aleksandra Goryachkina
    Photo by Zhang Yanhong

    Goryachkina must feel good about her performance so far. It is true that she did not make the most of her chances, but now she is heading to her homeland where she will be greeted by a throng of fans and supporters. One of the things the young Russian star will have to be wary of is getting emotionally impacted by the overwhelming support. Viswanathan Anand experienced such distractions in his title defense against Magnus Carlsen. Saying that, her stoic demeanor may by a good thing.

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    Aleksandra Goryachkina in one of her rare smiling moments
    at a Moscow conference before the championship match.
    Photo by Chess Federation of Russia

    Both have tried opening experiments… Ju (1.e4) and Goryachkina (1.c4). This may be to avoid exhausting preparation of their main weapon or to avoid opponent’s preparation altogether. Ju has been on the defensive in many of the games and Goryachkina has tested her by playing longer than would deemed normal in dead equal positions.

    Two of the positions in game 1 and 6 feature good knight vs. bad bishop and Goryachkina played 40 moves of shuffling the knight around the board hoping for a misplacement of the bishop. This may be a psychological message to show the champion that she is on par and can control the state of affairs.


    Is “home field advantage” overrated
    in championship chess matches?


    It will be up to Ju to reassert her authority as the reigning champion. The change in venue could serve as a relief for Ju due to ease any homeland pressure. One may wonder whether “home field advantage” is benefit or a detriment.

    Magnus Carlsen (no less) seems to prefer playing high-stakes match outside of Norway. Viswanathan Anand defended his title in Bulgaria on Veselin Topalov’s home turf and Carlsen stripped the title from Anand in Chennai, India. Ju successfully defended her title against Kateryna Lagno in Russia. Thus, she may be comfortable without the extra attention.

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    Ju Wenjun will spring some surprises in the second half
    and will undoubtedly be confident.
    Photo by Zhang Yanhong

    If one has noticed Goryachkina’s button “Sima Land,” it is the largest Russian wholesale company headquartered in Ekaterinburg. While the Chinese team was ever-present in the hall, the Russian team has been kept a mystery. In a pre-match conference in Moscow, Goryachkina stated, “I will reveal my team only after the Match.” She did mention the “Chess Federation of Russia” as lending full support.

    It will be an interesting second half and we can expect to see all the preparation come out early. If one player wins early, it will put tremendous pressure in what is essentially a six-game match.

    Official Site: https://wwcm2020.fide.com/
    Match Regulations: https://handbook.fide.com/ (PDF)
    Games (TWIC): https://theweekinchess.com/

  8. Game 7
    16th January 2020
    Ju ½-½ Goryachkina

    Play resumed today in Vladivostok where British commentator Nigel Short reported bone-chilling temperatures of -23C. It was anticipated that there would be some fireworks at the board, but it fizzled to a draw after 67 moves… another marathon. It appears that stamina and nerves may be a deciding factor.

    In this game, Ju Wenjun played 4.d3 avoiding the previous two 1.e4 games that resulted in the Berlin. Both games were drawn. This game would be a more positional tone with slow maneuvering and an accumulation of small advantages. Aleksandra Goryachkina faced a delayed exchange and the game slowly went into the middlegame. The pawn structures were imbalanced with white having both central pawns and pressure on the f-file.

    After the queens were traded white maintained the structure advantage and begin to apply pressure on the light squares. However, the Russian was able to trade off the knights and ease some of the tension. While white still had the advantage, the position was a bit rigid.

    Goryachkina tried 39…g6!? which made a concession, but the idea was that her rooks would become more active since moving the king to the h-file would be risky. Ju decided to trot the king over the queenside to provoke weaknesses. This would not be enough to create a tangible advantage and the game was comfortably drawn.

    Video by FIDE

    Match Score: Ju 3½ – Goryachkina 3½

  9. Game 8
    17th January 2020
    Goryachkina 1-0 Ju

    Aleksandra Goryachkina took her first lead in the match. It turns out that Ju Wenjun played a dubious line in the Queen’s Gambit after 8…Ne4?! This line doesn’t have a good reputation and the Russian demonstrated why.

    It appeared that black had a solid position, but her pieces became tangled defending various weak points. The h1-a8 diagonal was also vulnerable after 30.e5! bxc5 31.Qh1! Nb8. White could’ve pressed on with 32.b5! but chose the more direct 32.Be4 and eventually crashed through.

    Goryachkina received the concession from Ju in her usual stoic manner. She may realize that Ju is much too strong to be celebrating, but the truth is she has outplayed the champion thus far.

    Video by FIDE

    Match Score: Goryachkina 4½ – Ju 3½

  10. Game 9
    19th January 2020
    Ju 1-0 Goryachkina

    Ju Wenjun equalizes with Aleksandra Goryachkina after a resounding win in game 9 of the Women’s World Championship. The Chinese player played dynamically and flummoxed the commentators with her 21.a4! A new commentator joined the booth as “Nikolai Shortovsky” gave his insights on the position. 🙂

    GMs Hou Yifan and Nikolai Shortovsky

    After Nigel Short returned, he and Hou Yifan were both skeptical of her play because it exposed the white king. In fact she had seen that the b-file could be plugged up and at the same time, the two bishops would rake the black kingside. However, the critical moment came when Ju Wenjun sacrificed the exchange to exploit the a1-h8 diagonal.

    However, tension in a championship match makes such positions doubly difficult. While Goryachkina had better moves, but perhaps got nervous and begin to falter. The move 27…Rd8 was criticized by the commentators although the engines give -1.14. It does appear that 27…Qb4! would have given black a definite edge.

    The game was rich in complications. There was an interesting moment after 29…Qg2? giving Ju the chance after 30.Qe5 (threatening both Qxb8+ and Qxf6+!) Rxb3 31.cxb3 Qc6! There was still a lot of tension in the position and Ju found a way to advance her king and trade queens. Black’s queenside pawns were an immediate target and were eventually lost. Ju was able to sacrifice her last piece and get her pawns rolling. This was too much for the black bishop and Goryachkina conceded.

    Video by FIDE

    Match Score: Ju 4½ – Goryachkina 4½

  11. Game 10
    20th January 2020
    Goryachkina 0-1 Ju

    Black scores the first victory of the match and it is a crucial one indeed. Ju asserted her authority in a Queen’s Gambit Declined and repeated the game from a couple of games ago when Ju played Ne4. That game did not turn out well for her. She did deviate with 6…Bf5!? receiving plaudits from GM Nigel Short. The game followed Ganguly-L’Ami played yesterday in Wijk aan Zee.

    The resulting middle position had a lot dynamic subtleties that Short and Hou Yifan were working out. They were using the Carlsen-Kramnik game as an illustration. Carlsen won resoundingly, but if one looks at the Ganguly-L’Ami game, there is a strong resemblance.

    What is interesting in the position is the fact that so many rules of chess have been broken. One of the differences between chess three decades ago and today is that players would never play a position with such a wretched pawn structure.

    Nowadays, players consult with the engine and if it gets a good assessment, they’ll play it regardless of how horrible the structure is. The dynamism is what is important, but how does one make sense of this transition in chess understanding? It is certainly due to the advancement in the use of computers.

    In this game, it is hard to understand how such a “bad” bishop can solve such problems. The commentary was actually quite fascinating and demonstrated another level of chess proficiency. The main site stated that the position had so much tension and psychology came into play.

    What happened to Goryachkina next had more to do with sports psychology than with sound chess. Starting around move 25, the game was a dead draw—a result she could have forced at any point all through the first time control. Instead, she made moves like 26. b5 and 38. Bd5, probing for an advantage that was simply not there.

    Ju switched her focus onto the queenside where she had a fluid pawn structure. Finally, the break 26…c5 came and this is where white began to lose the thread and play in risky fashion. Perhaps she felt there was little risk of losing the position. In fact, the commentators kept repeating the game would end in a draw.

    One of the dangers when losing a game in the match is the tendency to try to win immediately. Goryachkina was able to do that in Shanghai and perhaps was overambitious. Optically, black’s position looked worse all along and this may have clouded her thinking. The final moment occurred when Goryachkina tried penetrating with the rook. After 34.Rd7 Re6 35.Rxd5 Kc6 36.Bf3 Rd6. “All drawn,” said Short.

    However, the Russian went for more after 37.Rd3+ Kc7 38.Bd5, but after 38…Be8! black’s bishop was suddenly alive. Ju managed to swap the bishops and the outside passed c-pawn was the trump. Somehow Goryachkina began to play some suboptimal moves and the rook ending became impossible to hold. At the press conference, Goryachkina stated that she felt she was in control and was not affected by yesterday’s loss. Perhaps she got overzealous.

    This game had many subtleties and not easy to play, but Goryachkina should have been able to secure the draw. One may ask if Goryachkina is unraveling as the tension is ratcheting up. There is a rest day and then the last two games of the match. If Ju wins again, she will clinch the match.

    Video by FIDE

    Match Score: Ju 5½ – Goryachkina 4½

  12. Game 11
    22nd January 2020
    Ju ½-½ Goryachkina

    Ju Wenjun got nothing with the white pieces and is having problem getting the type of positions she wants. One of her wins came when Aleksandra Goryachkina overpressed, but in many of the games, Ju has not shown many ideas. Ju had won two games in a row and could end the match.

    This game was also a Berlin, but varied with the 6.dxe5 Nxb5 7.a4 winning back the piece. This seen in Vallejo-Nakamura game which ended in a quick draw in 14 moves. Both players had a 40-move requirement, but this game would be dead equal after the queens came off. The rooks followed and an opposite-colored bishop ending ensued. After shuffling bishops around the board, they agreed to a draw on move 40.

    Video by FIDE

    Match Score: Ju 6 – Goryachkina 5

  13. Game 12
    20th January 2020
    Goryachkina 1-0 Ju

    In a thrilling comeback, Aleksandra Goryachkina equalizes the match with in the 12th game. After playing 1.d4, Ju Wenjun responded in kind with 1…d5, but was hit with the improbable 2.Nc3!? known as the Versov. This seem to catch Ju off guard and she spent 17 minutes coming up with a reply.

    The opening was already a success given that Ju Wenjun spent the first 40 minutes in the first 10 moves trying to figure out what to do. When you fall into time pressure in such a tense match, mistakes pile up. It appears that in a critical phase of the game Ju’s time pressure led to her demise.

    Goryachkina has obtained a nice advantage, but was unable to ratchet up the pressure. Ju was able to consolidate, but then had a case of nerves and this is the way the official site describes it…

    Despite objective equality on the board, Ju’s nervous play appeared to catch up to her. She seemed adrift, not being sure what to do with her pieces. Black’s sequence Qh5, Qg6, Qe4, h6 and Qh7 allowed white to consolidate and begin to probe Ju’s position with 27.e4!

    Once again, white did not need to be precise, as black continued to drift with 28…Rc8 and 30..e3. It is worth noting that by move 28, both players were down to 12 minutes left until the time control, but their body language and play could not have been more different.

    Ju’s lethargy in the opening created a tense moment and after working hard to avoid being overrun, she ran low on time and the mistakes begin to pile up. Appearing to be suffering from fatigue and in her quest to simplify, the game descended into a completely lost cause. Goryachkina’s ploy had succeeded and now she would have a new life in the tiebreaks.

    Video by FIDE

    Match Score: Ju 6 – Goryachkina 6

  14. 2020 Women’s World Chess Championship
    January 3rd-11th, 2020 (Shanghai, China & Vladivostok, Russia)
     
    Flag
    1
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    pts.
    Ju Wenjun
    China
    ½
    ½
    ½
    1
    0
    ½
    ½
    0
    1
    1
    ½
    0
    6
    Goryachkina
    Russia
    ½
    ½
    ½
    0
    1
    ½
    ½
    1
    0
    0
    ½
    1
    6

    Tiebreaks
     
    1
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    pts.
    Ju Wenjun
    ½
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    Goryachkina
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    ½
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    Drum Coverage

    2018 World Chess Championship: TIEBREAKS
    Thursday, 23 January 2020

    The 2019 Women’s World Championship was one of the most exciting matches in recent memory. There were SIX decisive games during the match with three wins apiece in the preliminary classical games. Ju won the third game of the tiebreaks for the victory of margin.

    This match was a severe test for the world champion as she looked rather sluggish in the classical segment of the match. Her openings were unambitious and Goryachkina kept getting chances. Fortunately for Ju, the young Russian star was unable to convert her chances.

    Going into the tiebreaks, Ju mentioned that she was confident because she had a good score in rapid and blitz against Goryachkina. This was not unlike the Carlsen-Caruana scenario where the defending champion had a clear advantage in the tiebreaker.


    “I am also confident about my rapid.”
    ~Ju Wenjun when asked if she felt down after losing game 12


    Despite the advantage, Ju was still a bit shaky and nearly lost the first tiebreak game after being outplayed with the white pieces. Goryachkina missed an opportunity (41…Bxg5!) to obtain an overwhelming position and put immediate pressure on the champion. Ju held the position together and could breathe a sigh of relief. In the second game, Goryachkina also got a slight advantage, but Ju battled down to a rook ending and got a theoretical draw.

    In the third game, Ju improved on game 1 (10.Bxf3) with 10…exf3!? which received approval from the commentators as a better fighting try. Black’s piece formation seemed wrong as her pieces became a jumbled mess. Meanwhile Ju increased her spatial advantage after 25.Ng4 and 26.f4. Black was forced to weaken her kingside and Ju charged ahead on the opposite wing with 29.b5! an excellent move.

    The last phase of the game feature black trying to plug up so many holes in the position. It was hard to find a plan. Ju continued to press the attack after 37.f5! e5 38.dxe5 fxe5 39.f6. Black erred with 39…Rg5 when 40.f4 (again!). After a few more moves, Ju closed out the game with 43.Qg6 (threatening mate) Qd7 44.e6 Qc7 45.e7 and mate is unstoppable.

    Would Aleksandra Goryachkina be able to equalize yet again?
    Photo by Eteri Kublashvili/FIDE

    It did appear that the public was mostly pulling for the Russian player. She would have one more chance. Goryachkina had proven that she could bounce back and her three wins in the classical were with the white pieces. She would have one bullet left.

    This game repeated in the second tiebreak. The Russian player tried 8.Bb5+ in that game, but opted for the more conventional 8.Nf3. White sacrificed a pawn for a lead in development is more space, but black was able to play actively. Black returned the pawn, but it didn’t relieve all of the pressure.

    White could play 25.Rcc7 to keep pressure, but there was not enough to get any winning chances. Goryachkina played another 30 moves before realizing that her chances in the match had passed. On move 77.Kg3, the two players repeated moves and the game was drawn.

    Ju Wenjun beams after defending world title.
    Photo by Eteri Kublashvili/FIDE

    This was clearly a setback for the Russians who have been trying to secure a world championship for decades. The Russian dominance is long over, but perhaps Goryachkina stands as a bright ray of hope for the future. One of the attributes we can expect to change over time is her gloomy persona. She will mature and become more accustomed to the bright spotlight.

    Congratulations to Ju Wenjun for defending her title for the second time and continuing the dominance of the Chinese in women’s play!

    Official Site: https://wwcm2020.fide.com/
    Match Regulations: https://handbook.fide.com/ (PDF)
    Games (ChessBase): http://live.chessbase.com/watch/FIDE-WWCC-2020

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