Saturday, June 9, 2018

Women's World Chess Championship 2018 Highlights

While the World Championship traditionally receives the lion’s share of attention among top chess events, let us not forget its sisterly counterpart, who prefers to shy away from the limelight: The Women’s World Championship. However, that does not make the games from the Women’s Championship any less interesting. In fact, this year’s edition saw plenty of bloodshed as many decisive games were played out.

The 2018 edition of the Championships saw a 10 game match being played between the two contenders: Defending Champion Tan Zhongyi and Challenger Ju Wenjun. Let us look at some of the highlights from the match:

Tan Zhongyi (left) vs Ju Wenjun

Game 3

The start of the match already saw first blood drawn by Ju in the second game. Game 3 was a Queen’s Gambit Declined which looked to be a promising position for both sides, until Tan made a reckless mistake on the 14th move. This allowed Ju to launch a vigorous attack against Tan’s exposed king, and before long it was over:

Game 4

Tan got some payback in the next round, employing her own kingside attack that is typical of Stonewall Positions. The queen sacrifice at the end was a neat way to finish things off:

Game 5

By this stage, however, Ju was already leading by one point, and extended her lead further by winning Game 5. In this game, which featured a typical struggle against a pawn centre, Ju managed to secure a nice central advantage. Tan sacrificed a pawn to gain counterplay, but her plan backfired:

Game 6

Nevertheless, Tan was not going down without a fight, and bounced back to reduce the score difference to one point in Round 6. This was a truly amazing marathon game, where time trouble meant that Ju found herself defending a worse endgame. She defended accurately, but could not stop Tan from grinding to a win after a whopping 125 moves.

Obviously we are not going to look through every single move (unless you are the sort that enjoys watching those extended Taiwanese dramas), but we should focus on a few critical positions:

Ju eventually won the match 5.5 – 4.5 to become the 17th Women’s World Champion. Sadly, she only has half a year to enjoy her new title before having to defend it: This match took place later than expected, and the next Women’s World Championship is a knockout tournament that will be scheduled in November 2018.

Of course, the highlight of the year is still the main World Championship between the two Cs in November. Let’s hope their games will be equally exciting!

Setting the stage for November


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