Women's World Championship: Ju Strikes Back In Third Straight Draw

Please download our printable bulletin featuring annotations of round three by WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova.


We have a match! After struggling to equalize twice in the FIDE Women’s World Championship, defending champion GM Ju Wenjun had some chances of her own for the first time. The match is still tied 1½-1½ after the third consecutive draw, but Ju must be happy to have had an initiative with the black pieces in challenger GM Lei Tingjie’s anti-Berlin.


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photo courtesy David Llada/FIDE


Lei missed a nice tactical point at the end of a long sequence beginning with 11. … h6, as WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova explains below. Because of this, her counter-intuitive 12. Bf4 gave Black a nice game and Ju is likely also wondering whether she could have sustained her initiative longer.

Around move 19, Black had a chance to press directly against White’s king. She eventually went this route, but only after giving Lei a few moves to consolidate.


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Ju Wenjun wondering whether she could have pushed for more (courtesy David Llada/FIDE)


Once again, this match is demonstrating how quickly an initiative can evaporate, especially with players as defensively skilled as these two.

While Lei was expected to stick with 1. d4, she has twice now played into Ju’s Ruy Lopez with 1. e4 and nevertheless managed to catch the champion off-guard with a well-chosen sideline. But just how deep is Lei’s well of ideas? Will she return to playing into Black’s Berlin? If she sticks with 4. d3 instead, does she have more ideas here? Or was this the end of her king’s-pawn experiment?


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Lei Tingjie, most likely thinking about Black's g-pawn in some variation or another (courtesy David Llada/FIDE)


Additionally, it will be interesting to see how Ju responds to the changing dynamic of the match. Even though she was surprised in the opening again, taking 20 minutes on her sixth move, she was able to solve all of her problems over the board and even claim an advantage by move 12. Will this confidence change her approach to her next game with the black pieces?

Regardless, this is proving to be a high-quality contest between two worthy and evenly matched competitors. Here’s to nine more games as nuanced and intricate as the first three!



Round four took place earlier today, July 9, at 2 a.m. Play resumes (after another rest day on Monday) Tuesday, July 11, at the same time.

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