Ju vs Goryachkina all tied at the half

by André Schulz
1/15/2020 – In Shanghai on Sunday, the sixth game of the women's world championship between Ju Wenjun and Aleksandra Goryachkina ended in a draw. Goryachkina pulled out all the stops until the 105th move, but the fortress of the defending champion held fast. The match is all tied up at 3:3, and the action now moves to Vladivostok. Get up to speed on the first half's action in time for Thursday's Game 7. | Photos: Zhang Yanhong FIDE / Official site

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Match moves to Russia

The Women's World Championship match between defending World Champion Ju Wenjun and her challenger Aleksanda Goryachkina is proving to be a tough struggle. The first three games ended in draws, but they were hard fought. Then the pair traded wins, before a sixth-game draw brought the first half, played in Shanghai, to a dead-heat close. Let's get caught up:

Report on Games 1 & 2
All stories on the Women's World Championship

Game 3

After the first rest day, Goryachkina took the white pieces and once again played 1.d4 as in game one, but this time a semi-Tarrasch defence came on board. The opening's popularity was revived several years ago by the likes of Vladimir Kramnik, and later picked up by Chinese stars Wang Hao and Hou Yifan.


The structure resembles the Gruenfeld defence and usually continues — as Ju played — 7...cxd4 8.cxd4 b4 9.d2. White has a strong pawn centre, against Black's queenside majority. After the opening, the game was roughly balanced with both sides looking for some way to gain an edge.

Der WM-Kampf der Frauen

On the 23rd move, Black decided against what was in retrospect a good option.


After 23.d3, Black was able to play 23...♞e5 here. Since 24...♞xf3 is a huge threat, 24.dxe5 ♜xd3 is practically forced and White's centre would have lost much of its dynamic potential. Instead, Black opted for 23...♜dc8.  

A few moves later, the players reached this position:


After 31.c4, 31...♛c5 was the right reaction, but Ju played 31...exd5 and lost a pawn after the intermediate move 32.xb6! ♜b7 33.xd5. Even so, it was not enough to win. After exchanging the remaining major pieces, Goryachkina went into a rook endgame with her extra pawn and pressed until move 85, but to no avail.


The match was tied at 1½:1½.


Aleksandra Goryachkina stares down her opponent

Game 4

Ju took the lead with a win in the fourth game. At first, it looked as if this game would also end in a draw, but the world champion pull out the point in a pawn endgame. 

Ju returned to her regular opening move 1.d4 after surprising with 1.e4 in game two. Her young Russian opponent chose a variation of the Queens Gambit Accepted via transposition.


Black did not play 5...♝f5 here, leading to a Slav, but instead 5...e6. After 6.e3 c5, Black lost a tempo compared to the main line (c7-c6-c5 instead of c7-c5 in one move), but having provoked a4, can aim to exploit the hole on b4. This idea came from Vladimir Alatortsev in the 1940s, was then forgotten before being picked up again by players from Vietnam in the early 2000s. In the past, this might have been called the "Vietnamese variation". This line became popular after Vladimir Kramnik used it in 2004 in a game of his World Championship match against Peter Leko and earned a quick draw. After that, other top players had confidence in this idea, not least of whom was Magnus Carlsen. 


Ju Wenjun lines up her next move

After a few natural developing moves, the players reached this position:


The main move here is 10.♕e2. Instead, Ju liquidated her isolated pawn with 10.d5, which is a common motif in this type of position, but often also releases the tension. That was the case here too, but White kept a slight initiative and reached an ending in which her own king was a little more secure.


Soon the last minor pieces were exchanged and the drawing chances in the queen-only endgame apparently increased. However — as has been a hallmark of this competition so far — the players fought on.


White has advanced her pawn to a6, which gives the queen a base on b7. With 44.f3 she activates the king. The game is still objectively balanced, but Black is under pressure. A few moves later this position was on the board:


Black covered her a-pawn with 50...e7, allowing the transition to the pawn endgame. However, this is lost. 

She could have still defended with 50...♔e8. If 51.♕xa7 then 51...♛d5 with perpetual check. 

Instead, after 51.xe7 xe7 52.g4 d6 White is winning.

(52...hxg4+ 53.♔xg4 ♚e6 54.f4 f5+ 55.♔g5 ♚f7 56.h5 gxh5 57.♔xh5 ♚f6 58.♔h6 +-)

53.gxh5 gxh5 54.e4 c6 55.f4 (55.♔f5? ♚b5 56.♔xf6 ♚b4 57.f4 ♚xb3 58.f5 c4 is not enough.)

55...b5 56.d5 +- f5 57.d6 b6 (57...♚xa6 58.♔c6 leads to the game. [Not 58.♔xc5 ♚a5 59.♔c4 ♚b6 60.♔d4 a5 61.♔e5 ♚b5 62.♔xf5 ♚b4 63.♔g5 ♚xb3 64.f5 a4 65.f6 a3 66.f7 a2 67.f8♕ a1♛ with draw.] 58...♚a5 59.♔xc5 +-)

58.d7 a5 59.c7 xa6 60.c6 a5 61.xc5 a6 62.b4 b7 63.d5 1-0


Game 5

A fierce fight arose as early as the opening: 


4.e5 is by far the most common move but Goryachkina choose 4.cxd5.

12...e4 was the first new move, and it looks more ambitious that 12...♝e6 which came before (e.g. Nepomniachtchi vs Anand, Batumi 2018):


13.xb7 This looks like the only good move for White. 13...c8 Black can handle the dangers on the a4-e8 diagonal and the pawn deficit is not yet a factor. 14.g5 (Here 14.♘g5  was the better move. Not only is there a mate threat on f7, but also e5-e6 or f2-f3 are in the cards. Perhaps the bishop retreat to e6 really is better.

Ju took some bold decisions — for example when she decided to go into an endgame down the exchange:


21...cxd4!? The world champion gets a strong pawn in the middle of the board as compensation, but 21...♚g6 was a more cautious alternative.

Things might have worked out for the Chinese, but for one last mistake:


29...g6 — only after this move is Black in truly dire straits. (After 29...♚d5, White would have to be careful: 30.♖g4?! [30.♖e8 is better] d3 31.♖d1 d2 32.♔h2 ♞e5=).

30.f4! Goryachkina, still had some work to do, but was on the path to victory, restoring equality to the match score.


The Russian bouncing back in Game 5

Game 6

The game offered an interesting insight into the interaction between bishops and pawns. A bishop which is hemmed in by its own pawns on the same colour squares is generally considered "bad". On the other hand, these pawns are also defended by the bishop and thus protected from the opposing army. And pawns so anchored have the ability to constrict an opposing bishop of the same colour. The players had to deal with such questions, mindful of the associated opportunities and risks.


Start of Game 6

Concentration before the "kick-off"

Sideline: A fight over a headscarf

Iranian arbiter Shohreh Bayat is the first and only international category A arbiter in Asia. She is also the only female general secretary of a sports association in Iran. She is currently the chief arbiter in the Women's World Championship match. This should be cause for celebration in the Iranian chess community. Yet now Bayat may be unable to return home!

Video interview with Bayat in 2019

As the German news media ARD Tagesschau reports, Iranian websites loyal to the hardline religious leadership were hostile towards Bayat, alleging that she did not properly wear a hijab — or Islamic headscarf — during the match as required for Iranian women, and implying that she was engaged in some sort of political protest. 

In fact, Bayat dutifully wore a headscarf, but in an elegant and unobtrusive way, common for many young Iranian women, especially when visiting countries where the custom is unusual and certainly not compulsory.

Bayat rejects the assumption that she was engaged in any sort of political protest. Yet, the Iranian Chess Federation even went so far as to request a written apology from its official representative and instruct her to wear a particularly formal headscarf from now on.

Instead, Shohreh Bayat boldly took another approach: she omitted the headscarf completely.

Bayat overseeing the first move

Bayat, with long brown hair freely flowing

Speaking to ARD:

"I asked the Iranian Chess Federation to assure me in writing that I could return to Iran without worrying about my security," she says. "When I didn't get an answer to that, it was clear to me that it was not safe for me to return, and that it made no difference whether I wore the headscarf or not."

Nigel Short, as Vice President, FIDE's official representative at this World Cup, expressed concern for referee Shohreh Bayat and stressed that FIDE was very happy with her performance.

With the departure of Alireza Firouzja, the Iranian Chess Federation has just lost its greatest talent of all time and is now in the process of alienating another high-ranking chess personality. It's a dark time for this burgeoning chess power.

Match standings


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

On to Vladivostok

"Vladivostok" — that means something even to people who are usually not geography buffs. The end point of the "Trans-Siberian Railway" lies in the far east of the Russian expanse, on the coast of the Sea of Japan, not far from the only 19 km long land border between Russia and North Korea. The second half of the World Championship match between Ju and Goryachkina will be played in Vladivostok starting Thursday.

As the Russian city is still further east than Shanghai, chess fans who want to watch the live broadcast of the games from Europe will have be up bright (or dark as it's January after all!) and early at 6:30 in the morning. In New York, night owls can tune in a half past midnight!

  • Game 7: Thursday, January 16
  • Game 8: Friday, January 17
  • Game 9: Sunday, January 19
  • Game 10: Monday, January 20
  • Game 11: Wednesday, January 22
  • Game 12: Thursday, January 23
  • Playoff (if necessary): Friday, January 24th

All games


Commentary of Game 5

Commentary by GM Nigel Short & WGM Zhang Xiaowen | FIDE chess on YouTube

Klaus Besenthal contributed reporting
Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


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


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