Women's World Championship: Lei Tingjie takes the lead

by André Schulz
7/11/2023 – The Women's World Championship match between challenger Lei Tingjie and reigning champion Ju Wenjun started with four draws, but in game 5 Lei Tingjie scored the first win of the match. She defeated Wu Wenjun with a convincing positional game. | Photos: Stev Bonhage (FIDE)

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Ju Wenjun and Lei Tingjie have been battling it out on equal terms so far. At the beginning, Lei Tingjie seemed to have a slight advantage in the first two games. In the third game, it was Ju Wenjun who gained a slight advantage. It was not enough to win any of the games, not even in the fourth game last Saturday, when Lei Tingjie pulled off another opening surprise, but was unable to overcome the reigning World Champion's resistance in the endgame. So far, the match has confirmed the position of both players in the FIDE World Ranking. With a rating of 2564 Ju Wenjun is number two on the women's ranking list, behind Hou Yifan, who has more or less retired from professional play. The Russian Aleksandra Goryachkina is number three on the list, and Lei Tingjie follows on place four with a rating of 2554.

After the rest day on Monday Lei Tingjie had White in game 5 and an Italian came on the board. This variation of the "Giuoco Piano", which has been played thousands of times in recent years, allows countless move-orders with a multitude of subtleties. Even top professionals admit that they have trouble getting to grips with all the subtleties.

In the Mega Database you can already find almost 25,000 games with this variation.

Gui Jinsong, Director of the Recreational Sports Department of the Shanghai Sports Administration, and Zhou Jia, President of the Yueyang Hospital of Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine at Shanghai University, opened the game

Against Ju Wenjun's 6...a5 Lei Tingjie opted for a line with Bb3, Re1 and an early d4, which has not been played very often so far. As a result, Lei Tingjie got play on the queenside, which she was able to extend more and more. Black on the other hand was constantly suffering from a passive black bishop and weaknesses on the white squares. Once she had the advantage, Lei Tingjie built on it to win the first game of the match.

The sixth game of the match will be played in Shanghai on Wednesday. Then, the World Championship match moves to Lei Tingjie's hometown of Chongqing for the second half of the competition and, if necessary, the play-offs. The move on Thursday will be followed by another rest day on Friday.



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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.