Women's World Championship: Ju "Gets a Game," Ties Match


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courtesy Stev Bonhage/FIDE


Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of studying chess is that, despite all the rich, complex opening theory that strong players must know, there is always the possibility that one’s opponent will try to eschew theory altogether and “just get a game.” In a just world, such attempts would be profoundly refuted. Instead, players at all levels are realizing that, sometimes, it is practically simpler to outplay one’s opponent from an equal position than to try to obtain a theoretically objective edge.


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World Champion Ju Wenjun in control of the eighth game (courtesy David Llada/FIDE)


After struggling to achieve anything with her preferred 1. d4 in her previous three games with white in the 2023 Women’s World Championship, defending champion GM Ju Wenjun decided it was time to “just get a game.” And the game she got turned out to be a wildly entertaining, complex, and instructive battle that resulted in her first win in the match. The score is now tied 4-4 with four games remaining.

Out of the opening, Lei made an interesting choice to clarify the center and stick Ju with the notorious “hanging pawns” on c4 and d4. Conventional wisdom says White should be looking for dynamic breaks to trade these pawns before she is saddled with weaknesses in the endgame, but Ju instead found ways to play off long-term active pieces that compensated her exposed pawns.

Lei struck back by correctly sacrificing a pawn, judging that her position would be too passive otherwise.


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Lei's wide range of facial expressions were on full display after the game (courtesy David Llada/FIDE)


From here, Ju continued to push while up a pawn, but one unforced trade of knights brought the position dangerously close to the dreaded opposite-colored bishop endgame. But with one pair of rooks still on the board, Lei missed a couple tactical shots to trade them off and ended up having to part with a second pawn and, consequently, her lead in the match.

Enjoy today's annotations from IM Nazi Paikidze:



Game nine will be played Tuesday, July 18 at 2:00 a.m. CST.

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