Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun (China) was leading the 2020 women’s world championship match when her challenger, Aleksandra Goryachkina (Russia), came up with an inspired effort to win game five and even the match. They then drew game six, and with the score tied at 3-3 the match will shift to Vladivostok, Russia.
2020 Women’s World Championship | Scores
The match had started with three fighting draws before Ju took the lead by winning game four. The players then recuperated on their last rest day in Shanghai. Game five saw Goryachkina take matters into her own hands and employ an aggressive approach than her slow, grinding style showcased previously in the match.
After the clock was started, the challenger, playing as White flexed her hand to push a pawn to 1.c4, something she has played just 35 times in 610 games as White in her career. She had last played the English Opening in 2017, so this move clearly surprised Ju, who sank into a brief deliberation before replying with 1…Nf6.
Both players opted for a sharp line where they were somewhat prepared. As usual, Ju was the one who came up with a novelty with 12…Be4 that surprised Goryachkina and allowed Ju to equalize. The position was normal until Ju went astray with 16…Qd7 and offered a queen trade when blocking a queen check. This exposed Black’s king who then marched to the center into the open. To consolidate, Ju had to give up her rook for a bishop and a pawn and was struggling.
In the latter stages, the challenger was striving hard to make her material advantage count while keeping Ju’s central passed pawn under control. The game was still in balance when out of nowhere Ju inexplicably blundered with a knight retreat instead of placing her knight on c4.
As if hypnotized, Ju Wenjun has played the inexplicable 34…Nc6?? (instead of 34…Nc4!) and gave Aleksandra Goryachkina a chance to come back in the world championship match. https://t.co/jbJe8LqZqM pic.twitter.com/8MnWLnOOOr
— Olimpiu G. Urcan (@olimpiuurcan) January 11, 2020
Goryachkina accepted the gift with both hands by bringing her king in the game, capturing more material and simply pushing her pawns to victory. This win was extra special for Goryachkina as it is her first win over Ju!
Winning the return game immediately after losing in a world championship match shows the challenger’s great mental strength. The same ability had helped Indian superstar Viswanathan Anand to win two of his five world titles (Topalov, 2010 and Gelfand, 2012)
Aleksandra Goryachkina defeats the World Champion for the first time in her career, right when she needed it the most. Ju Wenjun will have the white pieces in the last game to be played in Shanghai – then the match will continue in Vladivostok. #WomenChessMatch pic.twitter.com/STThgZKGIP
— International Chess Federation (@FIDE_chess) January 11, 2020
Game six is the last game that Ju plays on home turf before the match moves to Russia. FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich attended this game and also made the ceremonial first move.
Ju repeated her first move from game two as she opened with 1.e4, which is her fourth favorite starting move as White. Goryachkina quickly pushed the central pawn to 1.e5. The players then blitzed the moves in the Berlin variation of the Spanish. They repeated game two until move 10—only this time, Ju went for the more common retreating idea of 10.Re1.
Ju, who has shown the superior opening preparation throughout the match, once again was the first to deviate from theoretical waters. She chose a somewhat innocuous idea with 13.a4—which has just two games in the database, both featuring Sergey Karjakin against Anish Giri in the FIDE Grand Prix in Riga. Goryachkina played the first new move in the position with 14…c6.
The challenger quickly equalized and gained a very slight but tangible edge. She had “play” and more importantly a plan—Ju clearly lacked one and was stuck on the defensive. Goryachkina went on the offensive and pushed her pawns against Ju’s king. The champion swiftly brought her queen to the kingside to safeguard her slightly minus position. The players soon traded the last pair of rooks and the queens.
The resulting endgame was not torturous but definitely unpleasant for White as she simply had no plan or counterplay. Ju had just one strategy—to wait and defend. The principle that “a total bad bishop might survive” was her mantra for the day.
Goryachkina, on the other hand, had a pleasant position throughout, but the advantage was never really significant. The challenger then traded her bishop for Ju’s knight. Goryachkina probed further and tried several squares for her knight and king but without success.
The players continued for a long time before agreeing to split the points after 105(!) moves. Credit goes to Goryachkina as she didn’t let go easily and made Ju sweat for the draw. The challenger has shown that she is a fierce competitor—ready to fight, play for six hours, and push a slightly better position for more than 100 moves in typical Carlsen style.
The sixth game of the match, the last one to be played in Shanghai, ends in a draw. This leaves the score in 3-3 before the championship takes a short break and moves to the next host city: Vladivostok. Play will be resumed on Thursday, January 16. #WomenChessMatch pic.twitter.com/Bt4ypoAwxw
— International Chess Federation (@FIDE_chess) January 12, 2020
While the match moves from Shanghai to Vladivostok, there are three free days, including the departure, arrival and opening ceremony in Russia. The next game will be played on Jan. 16.
The prize fund is 500,000 euros. The winner will earn 60 percent of the prize fund, and 40 percent will go to the runner-up. If the match ends in a tie after 12 games and a tiebreak decides matters, the winner will receive 55 percent and the runner-up, 45 percent.
The match is played over 12 standard games and, if needed, a rapid/blitz tiebreak. The time control for each game is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move one. A draw offer before move 40 is not allowed.
Watch game four coverage with WFM Anna Cramling and IM Hans Moke Neimann below: