Ju Wenjun strikes back
Ju Wenjun strikes back, by winning the 9th game and even the score: 4½-4½. In a game with plenty of twists and turns, the World Champion emerged victorious after 62 moves.
Under-prepared, uninspiring, imprecise, are just some of the words, that describe Ju Wenjun’s play in the first eight games of her title defence match. Her Russian opponent appears to be better prepared, seven years younger, hungrier, more motivated, and determined to fulfil every chess player’s ambition—to become a World Champion. Ju is down a point with just four games left. She suffered a humiliating defeat, in which she was wiped off the board in a lopsided fashion. The match is in Russia, and the home crowd is buzzing with expectations.
What would you do if you were in Ju’s place?
The phrase is ‘Whatever’
Ju Wenjun showed up wearing a black bomber jacket with “Whatever” embroidered on the back, and she played like it. Her second move, 2.b3, startled Aleksandra Goryachkina. For the next 40 moves, Ju just kept bringing it.
Did she play perfectly? Of course not. Was it sound chess? Not really. Did it work? Yes, it did. For the first time in this match, Goryachkina was on the ropes.
The Russian kept going in and out of trouble, with dubious sequences (11..Kxe5 and 12..d4) followed by excellent machine-like moves (20.. Bg1 and 22..Qc8). By move 28 it appeared as if the match was over. Goryachkina was able to refute Ju’s disjointed and very opportunistic play. 28…Qb4 would have likely led to Goryachkina becoming the new World Champion. Experts agreed. Fans in Vladivostok and online were beginning to celebrate.
It was not to be. In approaching time-trouble, Goryachkina went astray with the dubious Qg2?. Three hours of ‘Whatever’ worked. Goryachkina cracked and lost her way. After the time control, Ju finally showed her class and converted a complicated endgame with Karpovian (45. Bf4!) precision. The World Champion showed her mastery and won.
Game 10 is Monday 20th January 2020.
Ju Wenjun v Aleksandra Goryachkina
Summary of the match
Game One ended in a draw after a marathon 97 move game while the Game Two was a short draw. Game Three ended also ended in a draw after 85 moves. Ju Wenjun won Game Four while Aleksandra Goryachkina won Game Five. Game Six and seven both ended in a draw. Aleksandra Goryachkina won Game Eight and grabs the lead.