Russian Grandmaster Aleksandra Goryachkina has taken a step closer to the Women’s World Championships title in Vladivostok. She defeated reigning world champion Ju Wenjun in match eight of the 12-match final and take a crucial one point lead.
The pressure is now on Wenjun, who has only four games left to overturn the score and retain her title.
Regardless of the outcome, it has become increasingly clear that Goryachkina is punching above her rating. In this match, she has demonstrated grit, patience, and perseverance of a +2600 player. The win was her second over Wenjun in the championships.
In today’s Queen’s Gambit, Wenjun, playing Black, opted for an unorthodox 8…Ne4. A quick engine search showed that White scored 71% in over 70 games played with the move. It was unclear why Wenjun went for the line.
At the press conference after the match, Wenjun admitted that after 17.dxc5 she felt that the game was getting out of hand and had struggled to come up with an equalizing plan.
Goryachkina continued to push, while black seemed to always go for safer, more passive options when presented with an option to either play intuitively or defend. A good example of this was 25… Qg7, protecting a dead-weight h pawn, instead of a much more dynamic and intuitive Nd7 — a reflection of how Ju has played this match.
Game after game, around move 30, Wenjun had a choice between going with her gut and intuition, and she seemed to have always opted a much safer, less opportunistic option.
Presented with a golden opportunity, Goryachkina played extremely accurately. She was not perfect: 32.b5! would have ended the game on the spot, before the time control.
was good enough and she still had the upper-hand. Goryachkina said that after
37.e6 this was a game she was not going to lose.
The next game would be a test of resilience for Goryachkina. For the first time in the tournament, she would now be the hunted. This is now her World Championship to lose.
Wenjun has plenty to do. A player known for aggressive, tactical brilliance she needs to up her game or end up losing her title.