Two draws to start the Women's World Championship

by André Schulz
1/6/2020 – The Women's World Championship between defending champion Ju Wenjun and Aleksandra Goryachkina is being played over 12 games, half in Shanghai and half in Vladivostok. The second game ended today in a draw. FIDE Vice President GM Nigel Short (pictured) made the ceremonial first move before his live commentary duties. | Photos: Zhang Yanhong, Lewis Liu, Michael Friedman

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Tied after two

In the first high-profile event of 2020, World Champion Ju Wenjun meets her challenger Aleksandra Goryachkina in a match over 12 games — six in Shanghai and six in Vladivostok (plus a tiebreak if necessary). 

After years of alternating knockouts and matches, the new FIDE leadership has adjusted the format of the Women's World Championship to align more closely with that of the open World Championship. Although, it should be noted that most open World Championships have been in the form of matches (including disputed FIDE World Championships), before the Second World War the Women's title was mostly determined in a tournament format. It was only after the war that the matchplay tradition started. In 1999, the format switched to a knockout, with matches returning to the mix only in 2011.

The contest between Ju Wenjun and Aleksandra Goryachkina is now the first world championship to be once again held in the post-war tradition. The young Russian grandmaster qualified thanks to her victory in the 2019 candidates tournament and, at an Elo of 2578, she represents a serious challenge for the defending champion, as evidenced by the first two games.

Game 1 - A knight makes 45 of White’s 97 moves

In the first game, Goryachkina with the white pieces, the two players fought on Catalan terrain. The players followed Giri vs Jakovenko Shenzhen 2019, through 13.xb6 axb6 but after 14.xc6, Ju was left pondering her next two moves for nearly 30 minutes. 

The middlegame remained dead-even as the pieces dropped off the board until a slight inaccuracy on move 35 gave Goryachkina an opportunity to press for more.

 

35...e8?! 36.d8 gave White a small initiative and, after a rook trade, Goryachkina tested the Champion in the knight vs bishop ending until the 97th move. The path of White's knight was a bit reminiscent of the classic "knight's tour". 

The scene

The scene of the action in Shanghai

Game 2 - A stable draw

In today's second game, Ju took the white pieces for the first time and uncharacteristically opened with 1.e4, which she has played in only a small fraction of games throughout her career. Goryachkina chose the Berlin defence and Ju responded with the current main line 5.e1: 

 

The game followed Fedoseev vs Kramnik, Wijk aan Zee 2019, until the 12th move, when Goryachkina thought for ten minutes on the novelty 12...c6.

 

On move 19 the queens were exchanged and a balanced endgame ensued:

 

The game continued until move 40 without much tension, until a draw was sealed by a threefold repetition of moves. 

 

Tuesday is a rest day in Shanghai, so play resumes Wednesday at 7:30 UTC (8:30 CET, 2:30 AM EST).

Ju vs Goryachkina

Ju Wenjun vs Aleksandra Goryachkina


Match standings

 

Click or tap any result to open the game via Live.ChessBase.com


All games

 

Commentary of Round 2

Commentary by GM Nigel Short & WGM Zhang Xiaowen

Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson

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