If you crave feisty, frantic, fun-filled world championship-caliber chess, the women have the men beat by a mile.
While the men’s title fights in recent years have featured a fair amount of shadow-boxing, grandmaster draws and cautious play, the women’s championship matches tend to be more wide open and risk-taking, with both sides ready to rumble.
Check out the current FIDE women’s world title fight between Chinese champion GM Tan Zhongyi and compatriot GM Ju Wenjun, now being contested in Shanghai and Chongqing. Through Monday, five of the first seven games were decisive, including a 125-move queen-and-pawn ending marathon won by the champ in Round 6.
Despite that win, Ju holds a 4-3 lead in the 10-game bout following a relatively pacific 38-move draw in Round 7. She has held the lead since winning Games 2 and 3, the latter a particularly representative illustration of the aggressive nature of the play in the match.
In an Open Catalan, White gambits a pawn for the initiative and after 10. Qc2 Bb7!? (10…Nxe5 11. Be3 a6 12. Rfd1 or 12. Ba7 looks equal) 11. Bxb7 Rxb7 12. Rd1 Be7 13. Qe4!, gains an important tempo as Black’s pieces occupy awkward squared. But in a position calling for caution, Tan goes seriously wrong with 13…Qc8 14. Qg4 g5? (winning points for daring, but positionally disastrous, as White’s next moves completely disrupt the Black game; far more prudent was 14…g6 15. Qe4 b4 16. Na4 0-0) 15. Qh5! Nc5 (h6 16. Ne4 Nxe5 17. Bxg5! Bxg5 18. Nxg5 Ng6 19. Ne4, and White dominates the board while Black has serious holes at d6 and f6) 16. Bxg5 c6 17. Rd4, when Black gets in trouble in lines such as 17…Bxg5 18. Qxg5 Rd7 19. Rxd7 Qxd7 20. Qe3 Qe7 21. Rd1 0-0 22. Rd6 Nb7 23. Ne4! Nxd6? 24. Nf6+ Kh8 25. Qh6 and mate next.
With her king in the center and White owning the d-file, Tan can’t organize a defense: 20. Rad1 Qd8 21. Qf4!? (keeping the advantage, but 21. Qxd8+ Kxd8 22. Ne4! immediately wins decisive material) Rxd4 22. Rxd4 Qb6 23. Rd6, with threats such as 24. Qf6 Rf8 25. Qf3 Qc7 26. Rxc6 Qxe5 27. Nxb5.
White cleans up nicely with a final tactic: 23…Rf8 24. Ne4 Nxe4 25. Qxe4 Qb7 (giving up a pawn to try to organize a defense, but there’s a slight flaw in the plan) 26. Rxc6 Kd7 (there’s still a very slight hope of saving the game now on 27. Rxc4!? Qxe4 28. Rxe4 Rc8, but…) 27. Qd4+!, and Black resigns as 27…Ke8 (Kxc6 28. Qd6 mate is the key point) 28. Qc5 Kd7 29. Qd6+ Ke8 30. Rc7 is crushing.
“Be best” — that’s what our Slovenian-born first lady is urging, so we thought we’d see who was being best at the just-concluded Slovenian national championship. Let’s join Melania Trump in a warm “Cestitke” to 20-year-old IM Boris Markoja, who topped the field in Ljubljana earlier this month with a 71/2-11/2 score.
A good example of Markoja’s skill came in his game from the event against fellow Slovenian IM Zan Tomazini, which we pick up from today’s diagram. White’s last move — 13. f2-f4? — makes the mistake of trying to attack on two flanks at once, and Black makes him pay: 13… Bg4 14. Qe3 exf4 15. Rxf4 (clunky, but 15. Qxf4?? Qc5+ loses a piece) Rd1+ 16. Bf1 g5 17. Rf2 Qxe4, and Black has won a pawn and still enjoys a strong attack.
White’s desperate attempts to complicate the play predictably backfire in the finale — 18. Qg3 Qe6 19. h3 Bh5 20. Qxc7 Ne4 21. Qxb7 Rad8 22. Qb3 (Qxa7 Nxf2 23. Qxf2 Be2 24. Bb2 Rxa1 25. Bxa1 Rd1 and wins) Nxf2 23. Qxe6 (Kxf2 Rxf1+! 24. Kxf1 Rd1+ 25. Kf2 Qe1 mate) fxe6, and White resigns as 24. Kxf2 Rf8+ wins decisive material.
Ju-Tan, FIDE Women’s World Championship, Shanghai, May 2018
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 Nc6 6. O-O Rb8 7. Nc3 b5 8. Ne5 Nxe5 9. dxe5 Nd7 10. Qc2 Bb7 11. Bxb7 Rxb7 12. Rd1 Be7 13. Qe4 Qc8 14. Qg4 g5 15. Qh5 Nc5 16. Bxg5 c6 17. Rd4 Rd7 18. Bxe7 Kxe7 19. Qh4+ Ke8 20. Rad1 Qd8 21. Qf4 Rxd4 22. Rxd4 Qb6 23. Rd6 Rf8 24. Ne4 Nxe4 25. Qxe4 Qb7 26. Rxc6 Kd7 27. Qd4+ Black resigns.
• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.