Aleksandra Goryachkina wins the 8th game and leads the Women's World Chess Championship by one point: 4½-3½. The World Champion Ju Wenjun only has four games left to overturn the score and retain her title.
Regardless of the outcome, it has become increasingly clear that Alexandra Goryachkina is punching above her rating. In this match, she has demonstrated enviable grit, patience, and perseverance. Will it be enough to become the next World Champion?
In today's Carlsbad variation of Queen's Gambit, Ju Wenjun (playing Black) opted for an unorthodox 8...Ne4. A quick database search showed that White scored 71% in over 70 games played. It is unclear why Ju went for this line. At the press conference, the World Champion admitted that after 17.dxc5 she felt that the game was getting out of hand and she struggled to come up with an equalizing plan.
Goryachkina continued to push, while Black seemed to always go for safer, more passive moves when presented with an option to either play intuitively or defend. A good example of this was 25... Qg7, protecting a dead-weight h-pawn, instead of a much more dynamic and intuitive Nd7 — a reflection of how Ju has played this match. Game after game, around move 30, Ju has a choice between going with her gut and intuition, she seems to be choosing a much safer, less opportunistic option.
Presented with a golden opportunity, Goryachkina played extremely accurately. She was not perfect: 32.b5! would have ended the game on the spot, before the time control. Nevertheless, 32.Be4 was good enough and Aleksandra was still winning. Goryachkina felt that after 37.e6 this was a game she was not going to let go.
The next game is a test for Goryachkina. For the first time in the match, she is the hunted. Suddenly, this is her World Championship match to lose. In a huge psychological shift, we'll now see what Goryachkina is truly made of. Will she be nervous? How will today's result impact her opening preparation? What about Ju? Does she have it in her to play winning chess? A player known for aggressive, tactical brilliance, how will she react to being four games away from losing her title?
Game 9 will be played on Sunday, January 19, at 15:30 local time.
Ye Jiangchuan, President of the Chinese Chess Association and FIDE Vice-President, together with Efim Zvenyatsky, Art Director of the Gorky Drama Theatre made the first symbolic moves in Game 8.
Former World Champion Hou Yifan joined Nigel Short. She will be a co-commentator for the remaining games of the match.
Aleksandra always follows the same ritual, setting up the pieces after the game is over - regardless of the result.
Official website: https://wwcm2020.fide.com
Text: Michael Friedman
Photos: Michael Friedman and Eteri Kublashvili
Photos in high resolution are available for the press at our official Flickr account.