Women’s World Championship: A tense draw, three games to go

by André Schulz
7/18/2023 – In the ninth game of the Women’s World Chess Championships, Lei Tingjie and Ju Wenjun showed a remarkable level of understanding both in the middlegame emerging from a Sicilian Defence and in the ensuing rook ending. The game ended in a draw after 59 moves. | Photos: Stev Bonhage / FIDE

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The tension is going up

The Women’s World Championship between two Chinese players, defending champion Ju Wenjun and challenger Lei Tingjie, is taking place in each of the two players’ hometowns. Ju lives in Shanghai, where the first half of the match was played, while Lei is now at home in Chongqing. Neither player could claim a home advantage. In Shanghai, Lei got the upper hand as she won one of the six games. In Chongqing, Ju has been on top so far, as she won the eighth game on Sunday to level the match.

After a rest day on Monday, the ninth game saw Lei playing white.

At chess tournaments, sponsors and supporters are honoured by symbolically making the first move and thus opening the round or game. The match in China is also enhanced by this ceremony. In fact, two people are always invited and execute the first move for White, but also Black’s immediate reply Why not? As long as not all the moves of the game are executed by guests of honour...

During the games in this match, the players are almost always sitting at the board thinking about their and their opponent’s moves. This is quite different from what has become common in the open World Championships, where the contenders regularly retire to a quiet room, watch the game via a monitor and appear when it is their turn to move. At times, neither of the players can be seen on stage.

Lei opened as usual with the king’s pawn, and this time Ju opted for the Sicilian Defence. Lei did not allow the usual transition to the Sveshnikov, but instead exchanged the knights on c6. With 10.a3, Lei deviated from theory, but achieved nothing afterwards. Eventually, a rook ending appeared on the board, which still required careful play by both sides.

All games


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