International Chess Federation
Friday, 21 Jul 2023 12:30
WWC Match 2023: Everything hangs on the final game

After game 11 of the match for the title of Women’s World Champion ended in a draw, the players are tied at 5.5:5.5. Everything now hinges on the final, 12th game of the match

In a complicated and tense positional game, Lei Tingjie who was playing as White handed over some initiative to defending Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun, but it wasn’t enough for a victory.

This was the penultimate game in the classical part of the match, and it marked the last game where the challenger was playing as White. She opted for the Italian opening, the same one in which she scored a victory in game five – her only triumph over Ju in the match so far.

Ju opted for a slightly different line than the one in game five. The two reached a dynamic position where Black had more spatial control. Lei tried to make progress by putting pressure on the e5 pawn, but Ju was countering well and gradually shoved White’s pieces back .

After a lot of positional manoeuvering, White decided to transfer her king from the queenside to the kingside but gave her opponent some interesting options. Black launched a push in the centre after which she ended with a slightly better position. However, at the critical moment closer to the time control, instead of increasing the pressure by temporarily sacrificing the bishop, the defending Women’s World Champion decided to go for a series of exchanges, releasing the tension.

In an even endgame that transpired, with queens and opposite-coloured bishops, the two agreed on a draw after 48 moves.

The outcome of the match now hangs on game 12 where the defending World Champion will be White. If either side manages to win, they will take the crown. If that game ends in a draw, the title of the Women’s World Champion will be decided in a rapid tiebreaker.

Game twelve will take place on Saturday, 22nd July, at 3 PM Local Time in Chongqing (GMT +8).

Here follows a closer look at Game 11 of the match:

As the two players sat across each other, Ju Wenjun was firmly looking at the chess board while Lei’s eyes went around the room. Each player had their own way of focusing.

The first moves were made by Luo Jianping, Deputy Director of the Standing Committee of Changshou District People’s Congress and Yan Chunming, from the List of Good Samaritans of China.

This was Lei’s last chance with white pieces against the defending Women’s World Champion. As in all of the previous games in the match where she played as White, she opened with 1.e4. Unlike game nine, in which she played the Sicilian, the World Champion returned to her main response move to 1.e4.

After 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Ju opted for 3…Nf6, going into the Two Knights Defence. The two played a popular line in which White tried to take control over the d-square, but Black confidently countered this plan.

Both sides have finished development and played very solid, not taking too many risks, noted Grandmaster Alik Gershon.

Black has a strong knight on d5 and controls more of the centre, but White can put some pressure on the e5-pawn. The position is even.

Both sides proceeded to align their rooks on the e-file and slowly arranged their pieces to optimal squares.

Since the e5-pawn is well protected, White appears to run out of active options. Black, on the other hand, can regroup by moving her bishop to g7 and take more control over the center by f7-f5. After a long positional manoeuvring Ju got some spatial advantage and increased the initiative in the centre. Trying to strengthen her control over the e4-square, Lei played f2-f3 but weakened the dark squares in her camp.

The position is complicated. Black is trying to force a push in the centre as White is trying to hold. White made a slight imprecision according to the engine: 33.Kf1?! with the idea of transferring her king to the queenside. Better was 33.Qe1, to reinforce the e-file defence.

Here Black had a chance to make some progress by playing 33…Bg7 to prepare her dark-squared bishop shift to either f8 or h6, depending on the circumstances. If White sticks with her plan, then after 34.Ke1 Nf6 35.Kd1 Qd5 Black is clearly better.

Instead, Ju played 33…Kg7. Now White’s king continued a long walk to the queenside while Black struck in the center and advanced her pawn to e3: 34.Ke1 Rh8 35.Kd1 e4 36.fxe4 fxe4 37.Kc1 e3

The key moment. White had a couple of safe options 37. Qg2  and 37. Qe1 but instead, the challenger took the pawn - 37.Nxe3.

37…Rhe8?! with this natural move Ju missed a chance to pose some problems for Lei with 37…Bg5! temporarily sacrificing a piece to pin the e3-knight and aim at the king on c1. White holds there, but it would not be that easy, especially closer to the time control. Instead, the line Ju chose led to a series of exchanges where the pressure eased off.

Black regained the sacrificed pawn, but now the two were in an endgame with opposite-coloured bishops and no realistic winning chances for either side. 

The game ended soon afterwards, on move 48, following a threefold repetition.

Both Ju and Lei are tied, 5.5:5.5. Everything now hangs on the final, 12th game of the match. If it ends in a draw, the two will proceed to rapid tiebreaks.

Text: Milan Dinic

Photos: Stev Bonhage

Official website:

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 in Shanghai, while the second half takes place in Chongqing. 

The match will consist of 12 games of classical chess. The payers 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 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.