Women’s World Championship: The calm before the storm?

by André Schulz
7/20/2023 – The tenth game of the Women’s World Championshipe ended in a draw. Ju Wenjun followed in Vincent Keymer’s footsteps in the opening, but failed to gain an advantage. The last two classical games will be played on Friday and Saturday, following a rest day. | Photos: Stev Bonhage / FIDE

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Two games to go (and a potential playoff)

The 2023 Women’s World Chess Championship between China’s Ju Wenjun and Lei Tingjie is nearing its end. The match is scheduled for twelve games. In the event of a tie, there will be a playoff. Ju Wenjun has already gained experience in a similar situation, as she won the last match for the title in 2020 against Aleksandra Goryachkina in a playoff.

The tenth game was officially opened by guests of honour He Yilong and Fu Xianfen, who played the first moves for White and Black. He Yilong is Chairman of the Changshou District Political Consultative Conference — which is an advisory body to the political parties in China. In fact, there are eight other authorised political parties in China besides the Communist Party. Fu Xianfen has excelled in epidemic prevention and control in the Hubei province.

In the tenth game of the match, defending champion Ju Wenjun switched to 1.Nf3. After Lei Tingie replied by 1...Nf6, not the most unusual answer, Ju Wenjun had a prolonged reflection.

The move 1...Nf6 cannot have been a surprise, but only after four minutes did Ju Wenjun continue with 2.c4. This was followed by 2...e6, and after 3.d4 Lei Tingjie could have played 3...d5, with a transition into a Queen’s Gambit Declined. She has already used that a few times in this competition and can be satisfied with the results.

Ju Wenjun, however, played 3.e3 and replied to 3...d5 by 4.b3. She was aiming for the Zukertort system, in which the move d2-d4 is initially held back in order to place the d-pawn either on d4 or on d3, depending on the situation. Vincent Keymer often opens with such a setup and has some success with it. Even without a fianchetto of the light-squared bishops, this opening is probably counted as part of the Reti system.

Ju Wenjun tried to squeeze some advantage out of her position, but to no avail. The defending champion gained a pawn, but she soon had to give it back in the major piece ending. Eventually, a completely balanced rook endgame was reacher.

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