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


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


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fixpont fixpont 11/22/2018 04:20
Klacsanzky: ok but your birthplace and citizenship is not equal with your nationality, maybe they are really Russians who were born in Ukraine and they just went "home".
FramiS FramiS 11/21/2018 08:16
What a nonsense. There is no men's chess world championship. There is an open world championship at which any woman who manages to qualify can participate. That fact that there is an additional women's championshiop is a discrimination against men. It offers women chances to earn such an amount of money with play of a certain level which are denied to men who have the same level.
So it is clear that the FIDE favours women over men.
Klacsanzky Klacsanzky 11/21/2018 04:41
@fixpoint Many players who are born in Ukraine go to Russia because of money and governmental support of chess. Sad that this happens to many amazing Ukrainian players like Lagno and Karjakin.
Klacsanzky Klacsanzky 11/21/2018 04:39
Lagno was born in Ukraine, but decided to switch to Russia. It seems the Russians need Ukrainians to win the championship for them.
Denix Denix 11/21/2018 08:08
Ju Wenjun will win!
KevinC KevinC 11/21/2018 04:18
@fixpont, of course, she was born in the Ukraine, which was still part of Soviet Union at the time, but She is ethnically half Russian and half Ukrainian. She plays for the Russian federation now.
Zagliveri_chess Zagliveri_chess 11/21/2018 03:23
Caruana played with the Italian National Team, now is playing as American. So played with the Philippino National Team. Now he is playing as American. Naiditsch played with the German team, now is playing as an Azeri. These are a few examples at the top level. With $5,000 fee for a grandmaster and a country willing to pay, you can flip nationalities as often as shirts. FIDE will pocket the funds, Makropoulos and Co idea for personal enrichment, Kirsan already rich enough to not bother with trivial amounts, and pat you in the back. Caruana is American by birth, I would not argue playing under the American flag had it not played for another flag before. Karjakin is ethnically Russian. There is no justification for So. Money speaks.
fixpont fixpont 11/21/2018 01:21
Wait? Is she Russian now? She was Ukranian like Karjakin at the time. I did not know she changed.