Women's World Ch: Lagno takes the lead

by André Schulz
11/20/2018 – Kateryna Lagno took the lead over World Champion Ju Wenjun in the Women's World Championship final with a win in the second match game today. The score stands at 1½:½ in favour of the Russian, with two games to play. Before Tuesday, Ju had won all five of her matches without losing a single game. | Photos: Official site

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Two games remain

The Women's World Championship 2018 will probably be the last time the title is decided in the form of a knockout tournament. After FIDE spent several years alternating between KO and match play, the new FIDE leadership now wants to adjust the format to be more in line with the absolute World Championship and, to that end, FIDE recently published new rules for a Candidates Tournament to be held in 2019 (PDF).

Of the 64 women who travelled to Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, to fight for the title of Women's World Champion, there are now just two remaining — Kateryna Lagno and defending champion Ju Wenjun. Ju won the title in May 2018 after winning a match over her compatriot Tan Zhongyi. If she loses the ongoing final, she would earn the dubious distinction of being the world champion with the shortest tenure in the history of the title.

The difference in Elo rating between the two players is small, so it is hard to call Ju (2570) a favourite against Lagno (2564) — especially now that Lagno has the lead in their short four-game match. 

Ju Wenjun has a tough task ahead

Monday's opening game of the match ended with a draw. But already Lagno missed a golden opportunity in the middlegame:

 

Lagno played 23...Qd5 inviting a queen exchange into an equal endgame. But Black could go on the attack with 23...Rg8+ 24.Kh3 Qc2! when White is one misstep away from serious trouble.

Later the advantage shifted in Ju's direction, in the rooks and minor pieces ending but not enough to garner her serious winning chances.

 

The start of Game 2

On Tuesday, Lagno managed to squeeze an advantage out of an endgame with rook and opposite-coloured bishops, and as the players approached move 40, Ju began to drift into trouble. Soon, Lagno seized upon the right idea to press her edge:

 

46.a6! fixing the a7-weakness and creating an anchor on b7 for White's rook. The a-pawn will soon drop off after which Black is lost.

Ju Wenjun has two more games to try to strike back.

All Games and commentary

 

Select an item from the playlist to replay commentary from prior rounds

Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson
Johannes Fischer contributed reporting

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