International Chess Federation
Wednesday, 28 Jun 2023 16:34
The match for Women's World Champion title: Celebration of China and Chess

The forthcoming match for the title of the Women's World Chess Champion will be a unique event in chess history. China, known for its supremacy in women's chess, finds itself in a very rare position of holding both the absolute and women's chess crowns simultaneously.

From the 3rd to the 24th July, China will host the match for the title of Women's World Champion. In a year which saw the country of the Red Dragon clinch the ultimate world chess crown as Ding Liren defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi in Astana, the forthcoming women's duel in China adds to the anticipation of a great battle as the eyes of the entire chess world will be on the country. It will be the first major chess event played in China since its player took the ultimate world title.

The highly anticipated match between the current World Champion, Ju Wenjun, and the Challenger, Lei Tingjie, is scheduled to take place in the cities of Shanghai and Chongqing. These cities hold significance as they are the birthplaces of the respective participants. Ju Wenjun will have the advantage of home turf first, as her native Shanghai will host the first part of the match. Still, it should be noted that playing in front of your home audience is not always an upside and can sometimes be a psychological hurdle.

The reigning World Champion and the Challenger

Ju Wenjun, the defending Champion, has a lot of experience in major events. With two World Championship matches under her belt and overall seven attempts at the World Championships, her nerves are trained to withstand formidable pressure. It is worth reminding the readers that the previous match ended in a razor-thin victory for Ju. In 2020, playing against Aleksandra Goryachkina, the classical part of the match ended in a tie, 6-6, where the Russian player levelled the score in the last game! Ju Wenjun's ability to regain her composure and hold steady after a heavy blow in the critical game of the match was manifested in the rapid tiebreak, where she won with 2.5-1.5.

The Challenger, Lei Tingjie, had an impressive run to reach the match. Starting with a triumph at the 2021 Grand Swiss, she qualified for the world title tournament cycle. In the process, she scored victories in the Candidates matches over Mariya Muzychuk, Anna Muzychuk, and Tan Zhongyi, confidently securing the Challenger title.

While it is expected for the world champion and challenger to 'disappear' from public light in the runup to the match, Ju Wenjun took part in the highly competitive Sharjah Open at the end of May. In a very strong competition – with top male grandmasters playing – Ju turned in a very solid performance defeating GMs Karthikeyan and Vidit in the first two rounds and finishing with 4.5/9. The Women's World Champion's performance rating stood at an impressive 2680, indicating her strong form.

In contrast, Lei Tingjie has not competed since her convincing victory over compatriot Tan Zhongyi in the Candidates final, which concluded in early April. Lei won the match with a round to spare. Her absence from the spotlight after the Candidates suggests Lei is focused on preparation and staging uncomfortable surprises for her opponent.

The head-to-head record also suggests a tough challenge for both sides.

Since 2011, when their first game was recorded, the two have played 15 times – eight in classical time control, three rapid games, one blitz, as well as three online/exhibition events. The overall score is 10:5 for Ju, but she scored the majority of the victories when Lei was just coming up through the ranks. A more recent look at the results shows that Ju Wenjun has a slight edge at best.

What to expect in China?

A riveting showdown awaits us this July, brimming with anticipation and excitement. As the defending champion and more experienced player, Ju Wenjun has some advantage, albeit a slight one. But Lei Tingjie, who has been displaying an extraordinary level of play as of late, may prove to deliver in that final mile where Goryachkina failed in 2020 and clinch the title. A clash of this magnitude is bound to captivate chess enthusiasts around the world.

Following up on Ding Liren's victory in the World title match in Astana, the women's duel in July will be an opportunity for China to showcase its chess tradition and glory to the world, reaffirming its claim to be the new home of chess and returning the game home, closer to its eastern roots.

Key facts about the match

The match will take place in two Chinese cities, where each of the contestants comes from. The first half of the match will be held in Shanghai, while the second half takes place in Chongqing.

The match will consist of 12 games of classical chess. The players will have 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 more minutes for the rest of the game, plus a 30-second increment per move starting on move one.

Players cannot offer a draw before they reach the 41st move. 

In case of a tie, there will be the following tiebreaks:

Four games with a 25+10 time control.
Two games with a 5+3 time control.
Two more games with a 5+3 time control.
One game with a 3+2 time control until a winner is determined.

The event prize fund is €500,000, with €300,000 going to the winner and the remaining €200,000 to the runner-up.

If the outcome of the match is decided upon tiebreaks, the winner will take €275,000, while the runner-up will receive €225,000.