Sharjah Grand Prix winner Ju Wenjun

by Niklesh Kumar Jain
9/14/2014 – She is still a simple WGM, not a full-fledged grandmaster – but only because of a clerical error. That will change pretty soon, now that Ju Wenjun has won a Grand Prix and reached a live rating of 2580. That makes her number four in the world in women’s chess. Her goal: "that one day I will have the chance to challenge the world champion." Portrait and interview.

The Sharjah Grand Prix winner: Ju Wenjun

By Niklesh Kumar Jain

We are facing a unique situation in the world of women’s chess, where we do not know who the World Champion for 2014 is but we know for sure who the challenger in the 2015 match is going to be! The 2014 Women’s World Champion is to be determined by a 64 player knockout tournament that is going to be held in October this year. However, thanks to winning the 2013-14 Grand Prix cycle Hou Yifan has already earned the right to be the challenger in the 2015 World Championship match. Just in case Hou Yifan also wins the 2014 world championship title, then Koneru Humpy, who was placed second in the FIDE Grand Prix cycle, would be her challenger.

A WGM with full GMs: Ju Wenjun winning the Sharjah Grand Prix – with GMs Hou Yifan in second
place, Harika Dronavalli in third, and Humpy Koneru standing on the right, Zhao Xue on the left

The FIDE Grand Prix cycle consisted of six tournaments. It started from May 2013 with the first one at Geneva, Switzerland and ended in September 2014 in Sharjah, UAE. The last leg was won by a talented Chinese girl whose name is not Hou Yifan! It was Ju Wenjun who stole the limelight in Sharjah, winning it with a score of 8.5/11.

Just a month ago I chatted with Ju Wenjun asked her for an interview. Last Sunday she won her first FIDE Grand Prix and I feel this is the perfect time to bring some of her thoughts for her fans and also put light on the achievements of this really talented player.

Ju Wenjun is now the second strongest female player in China and fourth strongest in the world

Ju Wenjun, born in 1991, fell in love with the game when she heard an interesting lecture about chess in her primary school. Since then she has moved from strength to strength, winning almost every tournament that is important in the career of a woman chess player. She won the Chinese Women Chess Championships in 2010 and repeated that performance in 2014. She was the winner of the strong 1st Hangzhou Women Grandmaster Chess tournament ahead of Hou Yifan in 2011, and now she has capped it all with a victory at the recently concluded Sharjah FIDE Grand Prix, finishing third in the overall 2013-14 cycle behind Hou Yifan and Koneru Humpy.

Women's Grand Prix Series 2013-2014 standings (click to enlarge)

Wenjun has a live rating of 2580 after her 19-point gain at the Sharjah tournament which makes her the number two Chinese player and number four in the world in women’s chess, after Judit, Hou Yifan and Humpy. Just in case you are wondering why she is still just a woman grandmaster (WGM) and not a full-fledged grandmaster (GM), it is because one of her three GM norms was declined in 2011 as the signature of the arbiter was missing. She made her third required norm in the fifth leg of the Grand Prix in Lopota in June 2014 and thus will be awarded the title of GM pretty soon.

Niklesh Jain: Many congratulations on your great victory. How important was it for you?

Ju Wenjun: Thank You. It is my first in a Grand Prix championship. Though it’s shared first, I am still quite happy about this. It’s a big progress for me.

NJ: In any tournament, what is the differentiating factor between the champion and other players?

JW: I think it is strong opening, middle and endgame technique and the ability to deliver a stable performance that makes the champion different from other players.

NJ: According to you, which round was the most crucial game in this tournament for you?

JW: My game with Danielian. I was almost losing, but in time pressure my opponent made some mistakes and I finally I won. I survived by luck!

[Event "Sharjah WGP 2014"] [Site "Sharjah UAE"] [Date "2014.08.28"] [Round "4.6"] [White "Ju Wenjun"] [Black "Danielian, E."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E09"] [WhiteElo "2559"] [BlackElo "2490"] [PlyCount "169"] [EventDate "2014.08.25"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "UAE"] [EventCategory "10"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2014.09.01"] {In his Round 4 report GM Alejandro Ramirez wrote: "It's hard to say exactly what happened in this game. Ju Wenjun was completely winning with an extra pawn, the initiative and a better position, but she blundered her advantage away and was even worse. Then, in an endgame where Black had a bishop for two pawns, it seems as if she forgot that pawns can move forward and threaten to queen. Somehow or another Danielian lost track of White's h-pawn and it basically just queened. Very strange."} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. g3 d5 4. d4 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O Nbd7 7. Qc2 c6 8. Nbd2 b6 9. e4 Ba6 10. b3 Rc8 11. Bb2 c5 12. exd5 exd5 13. Rfe1 Re8 14. Qf5 g6 15. Qh3 b5 16. Ng5 Nf8 17. dxc5 bxc4 18. bxc4 d4 19. c6 h5 20. Ngf3 Rxc6 21. Nxd4 Rb6 22. Bc3 Ng4 23. Bd5 Nh7 24. Qg2 Bf6 25. h3 Ne5 26. Re3 Bc8 27. f4 Ng4 28. Rxe8+ Qxe8 29. Qe4 Qxe4 30. Bxe4 Ne3 31. c5 Ra6 32. Kf2 Nf5 33. Ne2 Be7 34. c6 Nf6 35. Bf3 Bc5+ 36. Kg2 Nd5 37. Nb3 Rxc6 38. Bd2 Nde3+ 39. Kh2 Rd6 40. Bc3 Bb6 41. Rc1 Rd1 42. Rxd1 Nxd1 43. Bf6 Nde3 44. Kh1 Ba6 45. Nbd4 Bc4 46. a4 Nxd4 47. Nxd4 Nd5 48. Bxd5 Bxd5+ 49. Kh2 Kf8 50. g4 h4 51. f5 g5 52. a5 Bc5 53. a6 Ke8 54. Nb5 Bc4 55. Nxa7 Bxa7 56. Bxg5 Bb8+ 57. Kg1 Bxa6 58. Bxh4 Be5 59. Bf2 Ke7 60. Be3 Bd3 61. Bc5+ Kd7 62. Kf2 Bf6 63. Kg3 Kc6 64. Be3 Kd5 65. Bf4 Bc3 66. Kf3 Be1 67. Bg5 Be4+ 68. Ke3 Bc3 69. h4 Bb2 70. Ke2 Bg2 71. Kf2 Bh1 72. h5 Bd4+ 73. Kg3 Be5+ 74. Bf4 Bh8 75. h6 Ke4 76. Bd6 Bf3 77. h7 Bd1 78. Kh4 Kd5 79. Be7 f6 80. g5 fxg5+ 81. Kxg5 Ke5 82. Ba3 Bf6+ 83. Kg6 Bc2 84. Bb2+ Kf4 85. Kxf6 1-0

Elina Danielian just cannot believe that she botched up the ending

On the other hand some luck is definitely essential to win a championship!

NJ: You are one of the strongest women chess players in the world. Your team mate Hou Yifan is the current Women’s World Champion. What is your aim regarding WWCC?

JW: My aim is to play my best and hopefully one day I will have the chance to challenge the world champion.

The Chinese women at the Tromso Olympiad 2014 didn't have a bad event, though they did not obtain gold

NJ: With whom would you like to share the credit for the victory in the Sharjah Grand Prix?

JW: My chess association, the Shanghai Chess Sports Management Center and all my friends who care for me.

NJ: How will you celebrate this victory?

JW: I will stay at home, have some rest and will soon play in another chess event.

No celebrations – just some rest and back to chess!

NJ: How happy are you about the women’s chess tournaments organized by the FIDE in last couple of years?

JW: I appreciate the fact that FIDE has organized plenty of women chess tournaments and also have developed the women chess. It gives players like me more opportunity to enjoy playing and show my skills to everyone.

The FIDE Grand Prix not only helps women play in tournaments all over
the world but also visit some exotic locations and meet exotic beings!

Ju Wenjun was also kind enough to send us one of her crucial wins in the tournament against Dronavalli Harika with some of her annotations.

[Event "Sharjah WGP 2014"] [Site "Sharjah UAE"] [Date "2014.09.04"] [Round "9.1"] [White "Harika, D."] [Black "Ju Wenjun"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A42"] [WhiteElo "2521"] [BlackElo "2559"] [Annotator "Ju Wenjun"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2014.08.25"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "UAE"] [EventCategory "10"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2014.09.08"] 1. d4 d6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 Nc6 5. Be3 e5 6. d5 Nd4 7. Nge2 Nxe2 8. Bxe2 h5 9. Qd2 Nh6 10. h3 f5 11. g3 Nf7 12. O-O-O Qe7 13. h4 Bd7 14. f3 Bh6 15. Kb1 b6 16. Ka1 Bxe3 17. Qxe3 Qf6 18. exf5 gxf5 19. Nb5 Kd8 {Ugly, but I had to endure.} (19... Bxb5 {is bad because I will have weaknesses on the a-file and the c-file and the f5-pawn.} 20. cxb5 O-O-O 21. Qa3 Kb8 22. Rc1 Rd7 23. Rc4 { Idea could be Rfc1 and Ra4 or Qa6 and Ra4.}) 20. f4 a6 21. Na3 (21. Qa3 Kc8 22. fxe5 Nxe5 23. Nd4 Kb7 24. Rhf1 {is active for White.}) 21... Kc8 22. Rc1 $6 { Logical but not necessary.} (22. Qc3 Kb7 23. c5 $5 (23. b4 a5 24. c5 axb4 25. c6+ Kb8 26. Qxb4 exf4+ 27. Kb1 f3 28. Bxf3 Bc8) 23... dxc5 (23... bxc5 24. Rb1) 24. Nc4 Rae8 25. d6 $5) 22... Kb7 {Now the King is castled :)} 23. Bf3 (23. Qc3 {Idea c5 then b4.}) 23... Rae8 24. Qb3 Ka7 (24... exf4 25. gxf4 Qd4 $2 26. c5 dxc5 27. d6+) 25. Nc2 exf4 26. gxf4 Nh6 27. Bxh5 {'?'} (27. Nb4 Ng4 28. c5 dxc5 29. d6 $5) 27... Re4 28. Nb4 (28. Qf3 Ng8 $1 (28... Be8 {is what I considered during the game.} 29. Bxe8 Rhxe8 30. Nb4 Re2 $44)) 28... Ng4 {'!'} (28... Rxf4 29. Qa3 a5 30. Nd3 Rxh4 31. Rxh4 Qxh4 32. c5 dxc5 33. Nxc5) 29. Bxg4 fxg4 30. h5 (30. c5 dxc5 31. Nxa6 Qd6 $19) 30... Rxf4 31. Qa3 a5 32. Nc6+ Bxc6 33. dxc6 Rf3 34. Qa4 g3 35. Qd1 g2 36. Rg1 Rf2 37. Rb1 Qf5 38. Qd4 Rxh5 39. Qg7 Rh7 40. Qg8 Rf1 41. Qxh7 Rxb1+ 0-1

The win against Harika in round nine helped Ju Wenjun to keep the lead and in the end win the tournament.

We congratulate Ju Wenjun for her fantastic performance and wish her all the best for the Women’s World Chess Championship 2014.

FIDE Instructor Niklesh Kumar Jain Jain is an international chess player who has participated in tournaments in almost in 20 different countries, winning the international tournament in Sri Lanka in 2010. He also worked for a television network as an anchor and news writer for two years, and reported in Hindi during World Chess Championship 2013 and 2014. Niklesh loves to write about tournaments and do interviews with chess champions. He has ambitions to become a grandmaster, but at the same time loves to train young talent. He strongly believes chess should be the part of every school curriculum, to face the challenges of the 21st century.
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