Tan Zhongyi convincingly wins Women’s Candidates in Toronto

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/22/2024 – Tan Zhongyi obtained the draw she needed to claim outright victory at the Women’s Candidates Tournament in Toronto. The Chinese GM grabbed the sole lead from the get-go, as she obtained back-to-back wins in the first two rounds. At some point, Lei Tingjie managed to catch her atop the standings, but Tan turned out to be more consistent than her compatriot in the long run. With her triumph, Tan became Ju Wenjun’s challenger in the next match for the Women’s World Chess Championship. | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

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Tan sets up rematch against Ju

Since 2011, after ten years of knockout tournaments, the Women’s World Championship has been decided in matches six times. All six matches have featured at least one Chinese player, with Hou Yifan (now retired from the cycle) winning in 2011, 2013 and 2016.

In 2017, Tan Zhongyi won a 64-player knockout tournament in Tehran to get the world crown. The next year, in 2018, Tan was defeated in a 10-game match by Ju Wenjun — who managed to defend her title three times, first in a 64-player knockout event and then in 12-game matches against Aleksandra Goryachkina and Lei Tingjie.

Now, six years after losing the match against Ju, Tan gained the right to face the current champion again by winning the Women’s Candidates Tournament in Toronto.

Tan collected 5 wins, 8 draws and 1 loss to win the event convincingly with 9/14 points, leaving three players in shared second place 1½ points behind. After grabbing back-to-back wins in the first two rounds, the eventual champion showed the strongest, most consistent chess throughout the event, though a setback in round 8 left her temporarily tied for first place with Lei Tingjie and Aleksandra Goryachkina.

The champion’s strong performance gained her 19.2 rating points, allowing her to climb to sixth place in the women’s live ratings list. She currently stands 18.8 points behind Ju — the world champion stands in second place, behind Hou, who is in a league of her own with a 2632 Elo rating.

Tan and Ju are two deserving contenders for the world title, as they belong to the elite group of women who have achieved and consistently maintained a 2500+ rating. We expect the match to once again take place in China (like the 2023 contest, which was played in Shanghai and Chongqing), and we look forward to seeing Tan receiving invitations to strong tournaments — following in the footsteps of the Tata Steel Festival in Wijk aan Zee, which invited Ju to play in the Masters this year.

Tan Zhongyi

A former women’s world champion who might regain the title in a match against current champion Ju Wenjun! | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Tan Zhongyi, Anna Muzychuk

Tan Zhongyi, playing black, signed a 36-move draw with Anna Muzychuk to secure the title | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Vaishali grabs fifth win in a row, climbs to shared second place

Besides Tan and Lei, who became the only two contenders to take first place after Goryachkina’s consecutive losses in rounds 10 and 11, a young player made headlines in the final rounds of the tournament: 22-year-old Vaishali Rameshbabu.

Praggnanandhaa’s sister entered the event as the second-lowest rated player in the field, had a fifty-percent score after five rounds, and then had a total meltdown in rounds 6-9, when she lost four games in a row to fall to the cellar of the standings with 2½/9 points. However, the fighting spirit of the 22-year-old from Chennai allowed her to end the event in style — winning her final five games to climb to shared second place!

Vaishali’s astounding comeback was also instrumental for Tan’s overall victory in Toronto, as the Indian GM-elect got the better of Goryachkina and Lei in her final winning streak.

In round 14, Vaishali got the better of Kateryna Lagno to end the event with a +1 score. Similarly to some of her previous wins, the game featured a number of evaluation swings, as Vaishali did not shy away from entering complications against her higher-rated opponents.

In the final standings, Vaishali shared second place with Lei and Humpy Koneru. Like Vaishali, Humpy also had a better second half of the event, as she lost twice in the first seven rounds, and achieved all three of her victories in the final seven rounds — including her victory with the black pieces over Lei on Sunday.

Results - Round 14

Vaishali Rameshbabu

Vaishali Rameshbabu | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Humpy Koneru

Humpy Koneru finished in shared second place with her compatriot Vaishali and... | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Lei Tingjie

...Lei Tingjie, who played bold chess in the final rounds, as she tried to catch up with Tan Zhongyi atop the standings | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Lagno 0 - 1 Vaishali

Kateryna Lagno

Kateryna Lagno | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Aleksandra Goryachkina

Top seed Aleksandra Goryachkina finished with a 7/14 score | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Final standings

All games

The beautiful ChessBase India meetup in a park in Toronto!

Vaishali and her mother, Nagalakshmi

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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