The 7th game of the Women's World Championship, played in Vladivostok, ends in a draw. Ju Wenjun, with white, put some pressure on Goryachkina, but the challenger defended well and was never in serious trouble. The score is now 3½-3½ with 5 games left.
Wang Xue Chun, Deputy General Consul of China in Vladivostok and Zhan Kuznetsov, Minister of Sport of Primorsky region made the first symbolic moves in Game 7.
After a near-disaster in Game 6, Ju Wenjun (playing White again) probably needed to have a game in which she would only be playing for two results — a win or a draw, with little chance of losing. With 4.d3 (Anti-Berlin variation of the Ruy Lopez), Ju achieved just that — a very comfortable position with some space advantage and minimum risk. Aleksandra Goryachkina (playing Black) was reduced to sitting back: however, her position had no glaring weaknesses.
Therefore, computer evaluations rarely moved past +0.50 for White. Nevertheless, it must have been extremely unpleasant for Goryachkina to be at the board for so long, maneuvering without any real counterplay. The Challenger had to show a lot of character to defend a bland, slightly worse position without giving in. Such positions are often lost when a player on the passive side loses his or her patience. Aleksandra defended extremely accurately, especially after the knights came off the board.
Goryachkina probably was relieved after Ju played 37.Nf5. With just four minutes on the clock, Ju was unable to work out all the complications that could have arisen from the more dynamic alternatives such as 37.h4. Despite 4 hours and 40 moves of exerting steady pressure, Ju never appeared to have a clear path to victory.
Games 4-7 were going to be a real test for the challenger. Despite having one White and losing Game 4, she emerged from this stretch even, proving her highest chess level and readiness to be on the biggest stage.
There are still five games left in the match and it is a bit early to be thinking about a tiebreak. However, given how tight the encounters have been so far, it seems very likely for the match to go the full distance.
Official website: https://wwcm2020.fide.com
Text: Michael Friedman
Photos: Michael Friedman and Eteri Kublashvili
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