Lei Takes Lead With Emphatic Fifth Round Victory


Please download our printable bulletin with WGM Tatev Abrahamyan's annotations from this round.

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Lei channels her inner Beth Harmon (courtesy Stev Bonhage/FIDE)


GM Lei Tingjie’s homecoming to Chongqing might have a bit more fanfare now. The challenger scored the first win of the 2023 Women’s World Championship, defeating defending champion GM Ju Wenjun in the next-to-last game of the Shanghai portion of the match. Lei now leads 3-2, and she will have the black pieces for Ju’s attempt to equalize before intermission.


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Lei after the first decisive game of the match (courtesy Stev Bonhage/FIDE)


After showcasing deep preparation while surprising her opponent twice with 1. e4 during her two previous white games, Lei stuck with the king’s pawn but chose a new opening against Ju’s 1. … e5. Lei decided to give her Ruy Lopez (3. Bb5) a rest, switching to Bc4. While Ju normally responds with the Italian (3. … Bc5), she instead chose the Two Knights’ Defense with 3. … Nf6.


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A despondent Ju after a disappointing loss (courtesy Stev Bonhage/FIDE)


For once, Ju seemed more prepared out of the opening, with Lei beginning to think as early as her seventh move. But one passive move from Black with 12. … Bb7 handed Lei a serious initiative. From this point, she had a number of clear moves while it was increasingly difficult to suggest anything for Black.

As a result, Ju found herself making several committal pawn moves, beginning with 14. … c5 and continuing all the way through the end of the first time control with 35. … f6 and 40. … f5. Eventually, Lei was able to break through, and won the resulting endgame with relative ease.

After several back-and-forth contests showing each player’s defensive resolve, this was the first game where one player was able to earn, keep, and convert the initiative. Lei is clearly in great form for this match, and it will be interesting to see how Ju and her team respond to the new match situation.



Round six takes place Wednesday, July 12 at 2:00 a.m. CST. Play then takes a brief hiatus before resuming Saturday, July 15 in Chongxing.

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