Ju Wenjun: An insider's view of the match for the Women's World Championship 2020

by Ju Wenjun
4/6/2020 – The chess year 2020 began with a highlight, the Women's World Championship match between World Champion Ju Wenjun and her challenger Aleksandra Goryachkina. The match was hard-fought and Ju Wenjun won the tie-break. Here, at her premiere as a ChessBase author, she delivers an insider's report on this exciting match. | Photos: FIDE

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"The best birthday present ever!"

The FIDE Women’s World Championship match 2020 was played in Shanghai and Vladivostok. The first six rounds took place in Shanghai, my home town. The venue of the match was the Shanghai Board and Card Games Administrative Center in Nanjing Road West, in the center of the city. Shanghai and Vladivostok are quite different — when the match began in Shanghai it was about 10 degrees (Celsius) outside and one day the temperature even reached 20 degrees. But things were to change when we moved to Vladivostok for the second part of the match.

In Shanghai we stayed at the Continental Hotel, and from my window I could see the railway station and a huge shopping mall. From the hotel to the playing venue it was a ten-minute drive by car.

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich makes the first move

For me, it was a pleasure and an honour to play in my home town, and I wanted to win at least one game to take the lead in the first part of the match — and in Shanghai. However, the match started with three long draws. But then I won the fourth game, and I am really proud on this game. 

 

52.g4 and White wins

After my win in the fourth game I was very happy and really enjoyed the free day. However, my joy did not last long because I lost in game five after which we were back to 50% each. Now, I expected a long and tough struggle in the remaining seven games. After another draw in game six we flew to Vladivostok for the second part of the match. 

The first half of the match was played in Shanghai

Five people came with me to Vladivostok to help me and to support me during the match: Mr. Ye Jiangchuan and Miss Li Kaimin from Chinese Chess Association, Mr. Ni Hua and Miss Wang Pin from the Shanghai Chess Team, and my personal assistant Wang Yunhan. They helped me to prepare for my games, they worked as translators and they took care of many details of daily life. I am very grateful for their help.

We took an overnight flight from Shanghai to Vladivostok and, when we arrived at 7 am in the morning, it was freezing cold: -15 degrees. We stayed at the University where Miss Wang Pin and I shared a big suite with two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. The place was quiet, which helped to focus on chess.

Vladivostok

After a few days of rest and preparation the second part of the match began and I drew with White in game seven.

 

However, then the match took a turn for the worse because I lost with Black in game eight. This was bad, and with four games remaining I did not have many chances to equalize again. Game nine was crucial: I was playing with White and more or less needed to win because in two of the three remaining games I had White and playing for a win when you are -1 down is always difficult. 

The arbiter Shohreh Bayat starts the game

In game nine I tried a rare line and this strategy was successful. In the middlegame, the game had become totally chaotic but I had good chances. However, I let them slip and suddenly was definitely worse. But my opponent also did not find the best moves and after the time control at move 40 I was better again and could finally win. With three games to go we were back to 50% each — 4½:4½.

 

10.Rxd4 was objectively not the best but led to wild complications

In Shanghai, my coach Ni Hua and I used to take a ten or fifteen-minute walk after each game to relax and to wind down. But in Vladivostok it was just too cold for such exercise and we limited our walks to one minute or even less, just to get some fresh air.

The match was followed by two mascots, a cuddly toy tiger and a cuddly toy leopard. They were always on guard on the stage and watched the games. I liked them both, but preferred the tiger because the tiger is a Chinese sign of the zodiac.

Game ten was very interesting again. After the opening, the game soon wound up into an equal endgame in which we both tried to get an advantage. However, I was more lucky and won the game.

 

Ju Wenjun concentrates before the game

Game eleven was the shortest game of the match and ended in a draw.

In the 12th and last game with classical time control, I needed only a draw to defend my title but I lost and we had to go into tie-break.

The first two games of the tie-break brought two draws but with a win in game three I could once again pull ahead. And again, I needed only a draw in the last game to defend my title. When I managed to hold the draw in game four I was very happy. The match was long and tough and I am very happy that I won in the end.


Live video of the tie-break (FIDE) 


I would like to use the opportunity to thank coach Ni Hua who helped me prepare and shared a lot of useful and valuable ideas. And I have nothing but respect for my opponent Aleksandra Goryachkina and her team. They are excellent.

 A successful team: Ju Wenjun and Ni Hua

I defended my title as World Champion and won the Women's World Championship match on January 24, which happens to be Chinese New Year’s Eve. Moreover, it is only one week before my birthday. Winning this tough match is the best birthday present ever.

The closing ceremony


Looking back (FIDE)


Games of the match

 

Games of the tie-break

 

Links