In a game with plenty of twists and turns, defending world champion Ju Wenjun struck back against Aleksandra Goryachkina to emerge victorious after 62 moves.
A day after losing to the Russian Grandmaster, Wenjun bounced back to show she was still a force to be reckoned with a win in game nine in the 12-match Women’s World Chess Championships in Vladivostok.
Under-prepared, lethargic, uninspiring, imprecise, unintuitive were just some of the words, which had been used to describe Wenjun’s play in the first eiight games of her title defense match.
Her Russian opponent appeared to have been better prepared. Groyachkina, seven years younger, looked hungrier, more motivated, and determined to fulfill every chess player’s ambition to become the World Champion. Wenjun was down a point with just four games left.
Game eight saw he suffer a humiliating defeat, in which she was wiped off the board in a lopsided fashion. This match played at the home of the challenger was buzzing with expectations.
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 Goryachkina and for the next 40 moves, Wenjun just kept bringing it on.
Was her play perfect? Of course not. Was it sound chess? Not really. Did it work? Yes, it did. For the first time in the finals, 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 counter Wenjun’s disjointed and very opportunistic play.
28…Qb4 would have likely led to Goryachkina becoming the new world champion.
Experts following the game agreed to the prognosis. Fans in Vladivostok and
online were beginning to celebrate.
It was not to be. In approaching time-trouble, Goryachkina went astray with dubious Qg2?. Three hours of ‘Whatever’ worked. Goryachkina cracked and lost her way.
After the time control, Wenjun finally showed her class and converted a complicated endgame with Karpovian (45. Bf4!) precision. The world champion showed her mastery and won.