Women’s World Championship: Halftime reached, Ju plays it safe

by André Schulz
7/12/2023 – After losing game 5, Ju Wenjun took no risks in the last encounter of the Women’s World Chess Championship played in Shanghai. Ju’s approach with white led to a quiet endgame after an early exchange of queens. The game ended in a draw on move 48. The World Championship now moves to Chongquin, where it will resume on Saturday. | Photos: Stev Bonhage / FIDE

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An old rule of the Soviet chess school suggests: “If you have lost a game, try to draw the next game in order to recover stability”. Defending women’s world chess champion Ju Wenjun had conceded defeat in the fifth game of her match against challenger Lei Tingjie, and apparently decided to follow the old Soviet rule the very next day.

The ceremonial first move in the sixth game of the FIDE Women’s World Championship was played by Zhang Yi, Director of the Youth Sports and Education Department of the Shanghai Sports Administration, and Ma Jiabin, Director of the Jing’an District of the Shanghai Sports Administration.

Like the games before, Ju Wenjun started pushing her d-pawn and was confronted with the Tarrasch Defence after an early exchange on d5. Ju’s 6.dxc5 is considered to be a bit more ambitious than the main variation with 6.g3, but the handling of the position by the defending champion showed little to no ambition.

On move 12 the queens were exchanged, which led to a completely symmetrical pawn position with little chances to create imbalances. The game lasted until move 48, but suspense was lacking throughout. In the end, only the kings and two knights were left on the board.

Like football in the past: the audience watches the game standing up

Lei’s narrow lead in this competition is deserved, as the 28-year-old challenger obtained slight advantages in most of the games, even though she could only score in the fifth game. Before the match, the two players were ranked second (Ju Wenjun) and fourth (Lei Tingjie) in the world rankings. With Lei’s victory in the fifth game, the situation changed somewhat. The live ratings list now sees Lei in second place behind Hou Yifan, one point ahead of Ju Wenjun.

The competition was set to take place in the hometowns of the two Chinese players. The first half was played in a hotel in Shanghai, Ju’s hometown, while tomorrow the World Championship moves to Lei's hometown, Chongqing. The administrative district of the city of Chongqing, which lies inland on the Yangtze River, is about the size of Austria and includes about 550 large municipalities, with a total population of 32 million people.

There will be another rest day on Friday before game 7 is played on Saturday.

All games


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