Tan Zhongyi draws first blood in Women’s Candidates Final

by Michael Rahal
3/29/2023 – Tan Zhongyi takes the lead in the six-game Women’s Candidates Final after defeating Lei Tingjie in one of the most exciting games of the year. In a double-edged struggle that emerged out of an English Opening, which saw Tan giving up a couple of pawns early on, Lei was the one making the last mistake. | Photo: FIDE

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Fortune favours the brave

Published originally on FIDE’s website

Primarily remembered today for his formulation of an atomic theory of the universe, the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus left many quotes for history. “Boldness is the beginning of an action, but fortune controls how it ends” is one of them, one that is also very appropriate to understand what happened today in the first game of the Women’s Candidates Final in Chongqing, China. 

The action began punctually at 3 pm local time with the ceremonial first move, performed by Du Xueyong, Deputy Director of the Chongqing Sports Bureau, accompanied by FIDE Vice-President and former Women’s World Champion Xie Jun. 

Playing white, Tan Zhongyi opened with 1.c4, the English Opening, one of her two main weapons. Hardly a surprise for Lei Tingjie, she quickly replied with 1…e5, against which Tan Zhongyi blitzed out 2.d3, a secondary line which, according to my database, had never been played before in her career. 

FIDE Women's Candidates Final 2023

Already on move 6, the position was completely new, a rare occurrence nowadays. Customary in English Openings, Tan Zhongyi went for the kingside fianchetto, followed by the typical queenside pawn expansion with a3 and b4. Lei Tingjie defended with precision, obtaining a very promising middlegame position. 

Around move 20, with both players having under fifteen minutes to reach the 40-move time control, Tan Zhongyi boldly opted for a very risky and unbalanced idea, allowing her opponent two strongly connected passed pawns in exchange for active piece play and her own passer on d5. Soon, a second pawn had to be sacrificed to maintain the initiative. 

Although the computers were indicating a decisive material advantage for Lei Tingjie, her king was considerably exposed — in addition, she was getting very low on time. 

On move 30, Lei Tingjie could have scored first blood if she had found 30…c4! (instead of 30…Qe6?). However, the lines are very difficult to calculate with only seconds on the clock. 


Tan Zhongyi won a piece but still had to deal with her opponent’s advanced passed pawn. She missed a win on move 35 (35.e4! instead of 35.Qe8, with a decisive advantage), but luck was on her side today. 

With less than thirty seconds on her clock and five moves to go to reach the time control, Lei Tingjie blundered with 36…f4? and was forced to resign a couple of moves later, after Tan Zhongyi correctly spotted 37.e3! followed by the exchange of queens on d3.


Commentating the match from the venue, GM Alik Gershon witnessed the meltdown live, and later concluded:

What a blow for Lei Tingjie. Until the very last moment, she had a draw with 36…Qb1. This has been a very upsetting game for her.

Chief Arbiter Panagiotis Nikolopoulos retrieved the scoresheets from the players, certifying a win for White in the first game of the match. Excited after her victory, Tan Zhongyi attended the press conference, while a disappointed Lei Tingjie retired to her chambers to regroup for tomorrow’s second game, in which she will be playing white. 

All games



Born in England in 1970, Michael Rahal is an International Master and a FIDE trainer. Currently living in Barcelona (Spain), Michael is fluent in English and Spanish and has been coaching chess players of all ages and levels for more than 25 years. More recently he has developed his career as a chess broadcaster, covering both online and on-site many top events on Playchess and the ICC, including a leg of the recent FIDE Grand Prix. You can also follow him on Youtube where more than 10.000 subscribers enjoy his instructive chess videos.