Ju Wenjun becomes 17th Women's World Champion

by Macauley Peterson
5/18/2018 – Ju Wenjun has done it: In the tenth and final game of the World Championship match against Tan Zhongyi, she secured herself a world title with a draw. Tan had to win the game, and looked desperately for opportunities, but she could do nothing against the very careful play of Ju Wenjun. | Photo: Gu Xiaobang

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Ju is the sixth Chinese to hold the title

The tenth and final match game of the competition for the 2018 Women's World Championship was a make-or-break moment for Tan Zhongyi. Before the game, Ju Wenjun was in the lead 5-4 and so Tan had to win-on-demand with the black pieces to force a playoff.

In an attempt to unbalance the game, Tan opted for a very unusual opening: a Hippopotamus setup. Black banks on surprising her opponent and postponing the fight to the middlegame. But Ju could not be disturbed. She played solidly and calmly, leaving Tan to get more aggressive.

Tan threw in the kitchen sink, launching a desperate attack on the kingside that left her in a lost position. But Ju had no need for more than a draw and eschewed all winning attempts choosing instead to steer the game into an endgame that was nearly impossible to lose. After 70 moves, Tan conceded her efforts were hopeless and Ju Wenjun became the new champion!

Game 10:  Ju Wenjun ½-½ Tan Zhongyi
 

Tan and Ju

The two friends could still smile after the conclusion of the match | Photo: Gu Xiaobang

Chinese dominance in Women's World Championships

Ju Wenjun was born in the year Xie Jun won her first (of two) World Championship titles in 1991. Since then, Chinese players have held the title far more often than not — Ju joins Xie, Zhu Chen, Xu Yuhua, Hou Yifan, Tan Zhongyi. That dominance has only increased since 2010, and after Hou Yifan rose to the top spot only Ukrainians Anna Ushenina and Mariya Muzychuk have managed to snatch the title for one year each as a result of the now-biennial knockout format for the World Championship.

Incidentally, the next knockout is scheduled for this November — less than six months from now — and Ju Wenjun will enter in the first round like everyone else, so it's extremely likely that her reign as World Champion will be exceedingly short-lived.

Nevertheless, with Hou currently pursuing an internship in California and soon to be a student at Oxford University, we can safely say that Ju Wenjun, in her prime at age 27, will enter the Autumn knockout as the world's best active female player.


Final match score

 

All games

 

Johannes Fischer contributed to this report.

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Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.

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