Reigning champion Ju Wenjun leads the Women’s World Championship match against Aleksandra Goryachkina 2.5:1.5 after winning Game 4. Goryachkina had seemed to hold the initiative in the match, pressing for 97 and 85 moves with the white pieces, but one misjudged exchange in Game 4 gave Ju Wenjun an advantage she could massage for 20 moves before finally liquidating into a winning pawn ending. WIM Ayelén Martínez recaps the decisive game for us.
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For three games it had seemed the Women’s World Championship match in Shanghai might match the draw-fest we witnessed during the Carlsen-Caruana match in London. After Aleksandra Goryachkina spent 97 moves trying to convert a tiny advantage in Game 1 she played the Berlin in Game 2. Ju Wenjun responded with the rock solid 5.Re1 and, it seemed almost inevitably, the game fizzled out into a draw in exactly the 40 moves required to be able to offer one. There were two curiosities: 1) the players actually repeated the position four times at the end, and 2) Nigel Short added another role to his previous Chairman of the Appeals Committee and commentator roles during the match:
Game 3 featured one critical moment after 23 moves:
This was Ju Wenjun’s chance to seize the initiative with 23…Ne5!, when the threats are Nxf3+ and Nxd3, while 24.Be2? would run into 24…Qxe3+! That forces White to accept the sacrifice with 24.dxe5, when after 24…Rxd3 25.Qxb6 and e.g. 25…Rcc3 Black has a dangerous initiative.
Instead in the game after 23…Rdc8?! 24.Ba6 White was back in control, but although Goryachkina went on to win a pawn we once again got to witness fine defensive play from the Chinese reigning World Champion – draw in 85 moves.
Game 4 was the moment the ice finally cracked, though it hadn’t seemed that way when a Slav Defence led to a position where both sides had a queen and bishop and five pawns. The first turning point, however, was Goryachkina’s attempt to simplify by exchanging off bishops with 34…Bc5!?
After 35.Bxc5+ bxc5 Black’s weak c5-pawn became a liability, and Ju Wenjun gradually managed to grind her opponent down until Goryachkina made the last mistake of offering an exchange of queens:
The Women’s World Champion had correctly assessed the position as winning after 51.Qxe7+ Kxe7 52.g4!, and there was no longer any salvation in the pawn ending. Don’t miss WIM Ayelén Martínez’s recap of the game!
That means Goryachkina goes into the rest day trailing her first World Championship match by a point. On Saturday and Sunday the last two games will be played in Shanghai before the match switches to Vladivostok, Russia.
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