- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2020

It may not rate with “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” or “At my signal, unleash hell!” but “Whatever” may just be the rallying cry that saves a world chess championship.

Largely out-prepared and outplayed in the early stages of her FIDE women’s world title match against young Russian challenger GM Aleksandra Goryachkina, Chinese champion GM Ju Wenjun showed up for Game 9 of the 12-game match wearing a black leather bomber jacket with the word “Whatever” emblazoned on the back.

The result — an improbable two-game win streak that leaves Ju with a 5½-4½ lead with just two games left to play this week. The overall match, split between Shanghai and Vladivostok, Russia, has been an excellent showcase for the women’s game, with some nice fighting chess and impressive performances from both players.

Some were set to hand the crown to Goryachkina after she took her first lead of the match in Game 8, a powerful demolition of the champion out of a Queen’s Gambit Declined. Black’s shaky 16…Bxc5?!, instead of the solid 16…Bc8!, opens the queenside floodgates and leaves her king vulnerable for the remainder of the game.

Particularly nice is White’s 30. e5! bxc5 31. Qh1!, and the queen dominates the position from the corner of the board. Black misses one last defensive chance — tougher was 36…Rc7!, angling for 37. e6?! (Rh1! keeps White on top) d2! 38. Rh1 Rc7! 39. Qf3 Qc8! and a strong perpetual check threat — and Goryachkina cleans up on 43. Rd7+! Kb6 44. e7 Re8 45. Re1, and Black must lose material; Ju resigned.

But Ju bounced back with a “Whatever” win in a fiendishly complex Zukertort Opening in Game 9, one in which both players had their chances in a queen-and-minor piece middlegame. The defending champ then reclaimed the lead in Game 10 when the 21-year-old Goryachkina finally showed a bit of nerves and inexperience in what should have been a drawn ending.

It’s another Queen’s Gambit in which both players see their kingside pawns shredded. Goryachkina as White appears to have an edge given Black’s miserable, locked-in bishop on g6, but never hits on a clear path to exploit her edge.

The game — and the match — may have turned on the eight-move sequence 47. Rc8 (White’s problem is that the pawn ending is lost after 47. Rxd6+?? Kxd6 48. Kc4 Kc6 49. h3 Kb6 50. Kc3 Kb5) Rd7 48. Rh8 c4+ 49. Kc3 (it’s still a draw, but White’s uncertain play is making things harder) Re7 50. Kd2 Ra7 51. Rxh5 Ra2+ 52. Kc3 Ra3+ (see diagram) 53. Kb4? (self-exiling the king when, 53. Kb2 had to be played; e.g. 53…Kb3+ 54. Kc2 Ke4 55. Rh7 Kxe3 56. Rc7 Ra3 57. Kb2, holding) Rb3+ 54. Ka4 Ke4 55. Rh8 Rb7!, and the White king is fatally cut off from the action. With her king a spectator, White has no answer for Ju’s monster c-pawn. In the final position, Black’s passer will cost White her rook and Goryachkina resigned.

It hasn’t been his greatest performance, but world champion Magnus Carlsen managed to pull off a remarkable feat at the super-elite Tata Steel Chess Tournament wrapping up this week in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands.

With a draw against Dutch GM Jorden Van Foreest in Round 4, the Norwegian great played his 111th consecutive classical chess game without a loss, dating back to July 2018. Carlsen, who eclipsed a record set by Dutch GM Sergei Tiviakov against notably less competition, last lost a game at tournament time controls to Azerbaijan GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov at the Biel Chess Festival. At 4½-3½ (one win and seven draws), Carlsen is currently tied for fifth at the Tata Steel event, a point behind co-leaders GM Fabiano Caruana of the U.S. and Iranian GM Alireza Firouzja.

Goryachkina-Ju, FIDE Women’s World Championship, Game 8, Vladivostok, Russia, January 2020

1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 Nf6 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 c6 6. e3 h6 7. Bh4 Be7 8. Bd3 Ne4 9. Bg3 Nxg3 10. hxg3 Nd7 11. Nf3 Nf6 12. Qc2 Be6 13. O-O-O Qc7 14. Kb1 O-O-O 15. Na4 Kb8 16. Nc5 Bxc5 17. dxc5 Bg4 18. Rc1 Bxf3 19. gxf3 d4 20. e4 g5 21. Qd2 Nd7 22. f4 f6 23. Rh5 gxf4 24. gxf4 Nf8 25. f5 Qg7 26. Qf4+ Ka8 27. Qh2 Nd7 28. f4 Qf8 29. b4 b6 30. e5 bxc5 31. Qh1 Nb8 32. Be4 Rh7 33. Rxc5 Rb7 34. Bxc6 Nxc6 35. Qxc6 d3 36. Rb5 Rb8 37. e6 Qd8 38. Rh1 d2 39. Rd5 Qc8 40. Qxc8 Rxb4+ 41. Ka1 Rxc8 42. Rxd2 Kb7 43. Rd7+ Kb6 44. e7 Re8 45. Re1 Black resigns.

Goryachkina-Ju, FIDE Women’s World Championship, Game 10, Vladivostok, Russia, January 2020

1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 Nf6 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 c6 6. e3 Bf5 7. Qf3 Bg6 8. Bxf6 Qxf6 9. Qxf6 gxf6 10. Nf3 Nd7 11. Nh4 Be7 12. Ne2 f5 13. g3 Bxh4 14. gxh4 Nf6 15. Nf4 Nh5 16. Kd2 Nxf4 17. exf4 Ke7 18. Be2 h5 19. Rae1 Kd6 20. Bd3 Rae8 21. Re3 Rxe3 22. fxe3 a5 23. a3 b6 24. b4 axb4 25. axb4 Ra8 26. b5 c5 27. dxc5+ bxc5 28. Rb1 Kc7 29. b6+ Kb7 30. Rb5 Rc8 31. Be2 f6 32. Ra5 Rc6 33. Ra7+ Kxb6 34. Rd7 Re6 35. Rxd5 Kc6 36. Bf3 Rd6 37. Rd3+ Kc7 38. Bd5 Be8 39. Kc3 Bb5 40. Rd2 Ra6 41. Bb3 Bd7 42. Rg2 Be6 43. Bxe6 Rxe6 44. Kd3 Kd6 45. Rg8 Kd5 46. Rd8+ Rd6 47. Rc8 Rd7 48. Rh8 c4+ 49. Kc3 Re7 50. Kd2 Ra7 51. Rxh5 Ra2+ 52. Kc3 Ra3+ 53. Kb4 Rb3+ 54. Ka4 Ke4 55. Rh8 Rb7 56. Rc8 Kd3 57. h5 c3 58. h6 c2 59. Ka3 Kd2 60. Rd8+ Kxe3 61. Rc8 Kd2 62. Rd8+ Kc1 White resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email [email protected].

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