2023 Women's World Chess Championship Begins Wednesday

For the first time in history, both World Championship titles are held by Chinese players. Will that change after the 2023 Women’s World Chess Championship match?

No! Defending champion GM Ju Wenjun is facing her longtime national teammate GM Lei Tingjie after the latter won her Candidates final match against GM Tan Zhongyi. The only question is whether GM Ding Liren will be the first Chinese world champion to reign alongside two different Chinese women world champions.

The Women’s World Chess Championship begins Wednesday, July 5 at 2:00 a.m. CST in Shanghai, China. The 12-game classical match will be split between two Chinese cities, beginning with six games in the defending champion’s hometown and ending with six games in the challenger’s home base of Chongqing.


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Ju Wenjun after her 2020 victory (courtesy FIDE)


The 32-year-old defending champion has held the title since 2018, winning it in a match over Zhongyi and defending it twice across two different formats. In November of the same year, she won a 64-player knockout tournament, and then defended her title in the tiebreaks of a 12-game match against Russian challenger GM Alexandra Goryachkina in 2020.

Once again, Ju will be defending her title in a match against a younger challenger. While the then-21-year-old Goryachkina was not quite up to the task of dethroning the champion, the 26-year-old Tingjie is very much in her prime.


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The challenger Lei Tingjie after her 2022 Candidates victory (courtesy FIDE)


Ju leads the head-to-head in classical games by a score of 5-2 (with three draws). The score is misleading, however, as it stretches back to 2011 when Ju was already a WGM and Lei was rated just over 2000.

Ju became a GM in 2014 and Lei became a GM in 2017. Since 2014, Ju’s lead is only 3-2, with Lei winning their last two encounters.

In what fans can only hope is a good omen for the match, their head-to-head games also feature a number of direct attacks from imbalanced openings. Here’s what Lei did to Ju’s French in 2017, which was a complete reversal of and what Lei’s Grunfeld did to did to Ju in 2014.




Historically, Ju is a queen’s pawn player who will switch up move orders with 1. c4 and 1. Nf3. But, in her 2020 match, she played 1. e4 in four of her six classical games, with all of them producing rich Ruy Lopez battles leading to draws. But it was one of her only queen’s pawn games that produced a decisive victory:



Lei is also primarily a 1. d4 player, although she has played far more king’s pawn games over her career than her opponent. But throughout the 2022 Candidates cycle, she stuck with the queen’s pawn, including in a pair of lovely Catalan victories in the final.




We will be providing round-by-round coverage (and printable bulletins) of this match, featuring annotations from WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, IM Nazi Paikidze, and WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova. Recaps will be up the day following each round of the match.