Women's World Championship: A Sicilian in Round Nine!


Please download our printable bulletin and follow along with IM Nazi Paikidze's annotations for this round.

GM Lei Tingjie’s preparation with 1. e4 has been so exciting throughout the 2023 Women’s World Championship that defending champion GM Ju Wenjun apparently wants to see as much of it as possible.

At least, that’s one possible explanation for Ju’s choice to switch to the Sicilian Defense after just one (successful) game in the Caro-Kann. Another, more plausible, explanation is that Ju was still caught off-guard in the third game after repeating the Ruy Lopez from game one, so she might have more faith in the element of surprise than she did then.


Image Caption
courtesy Stev Bonhage/FIDE


But, from a match perspective, it is certainly interesting that Ju switched from the ultra-solid Ruy Lopez to the ultra-solid Caro-Kann after going down a game in the match, only to switch to the much sharper Sicilian after tying things up. One thing we can say for certain is that she is not trying to safely draw the remaining games and take her chances in the tiebreakers.

In this game, Ju deviated first on the eighth move, eschewing a particularly complicated tabiya where White often ends up with their king on the e2-square. But, nevertheless, Lei still played the first novelty a few moves later. Ju had a dynamic, creative way to simplify the position, however, and it was not long before the players reached an interesting (but equal) endgame.

This was yet another well-played game, where both players were sharp, inventive, and accurate. Neither wanted to take excessive risks, but this game could hardly be called dull or even safe. Hopefully, we will see the players test each other in another variation of the Sicilian this weekend. We could all learn something if they do!

IM Nazi Paikidze joins us for the last time this match to annotate:



Game ten took place this morning, Wednesday July 19. Game 11 will be Friday, July 21, at 2:00 a.m. CST, with the final game on Saturday, July 22, at the same time. Tiebreaks (if needed) will take place the following day.

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