Ju Wenjun defends the Women’s World Champion's title
The Women’s World Championship finished in Khanty-Mansiysk.
The first game of the final match between the defending World Champion Ju Wenjun (China) and Kateryna Lagno (Russia) was played on November 19.
The World Champion had White. A hybrid of the King's Indian and Gruenfeld Defense arose. The game quickly became very concrete, and demanded a lot of calculation from both players. White claimed an opening advantage, as Black's dark-squared bishop remained enclosed on the kingside. The players abstained from castling for quite a while. If White had maintained the grip and traded the queens, Black's position would become precarious, however, Ju Wenjun played a little too soft, and Lagno was able to carry out a freeing break.
Both sides were under the heavy time pressure and missed a number of promising opportunities in the subsequent sharp battle. At some point, the champion made a serious mistake, but was not punished for it. Kateryna decided to simplify the game, once again giving White an edge, however, Ju Wenjun played very solidly, with a draw in hand. A draw was agreed to on the move 36.
The second game took place on November 20 in the Ugra Chess Academy. Lagno played White. In the Catalan Opening with the early exchange of the queens White employed a temporary pawn sacrifice, obtaining the bishop pair in return. She regained the material soon, however, one of her bishops was exchanged for a knight, and an ending with rooks and opposite-coloured bishops ensued. White's position was slightly better due to favourable pawn structure and more active pieces. Kateryna traded a pair of rooks and made a pawn break on the kingside. Ju Wenjun was forced to defend passively on both sides of the board.
With precise maneuvers Lagno won a pawn, and then the opponent's mistakes allowed White to claim the game. Ju Wenjun resigned on the move 59.
The third game saw a sharp battle in the Benoni Defense. White sacrificed a pawn and was ready to sacrifice an exchange for Black's dark-squared bishop. In the opening Ju Wenjun acted considerably quicker than her opponent. White got excellent compensation for the pawn and seized the initiative.
On the move 16 Lagno opted for a very sharp pawn push, creating serious complications. Her opponent began to tank, calculating countless variations, and soon the players were even on the clock. Black made a serious mistake at some point, but White missed the most principled reply, opting for a safer approach. The players ended up in a mutual time trouble, which led to an imperfect play from both sides. Black should have avoided trading her central knight, which would give her good chances to equalize. Soon the position with queens, rooks, and opposite-coloured bishops emerged.
With aggressive play White could create fatal problems for Black, but Ju Wenjun preferred to trade the queens, losing some of her advantage. Still, with perfect play White could have obtained a decisive edge. However, she missed her chances, and Lagno managed to hold a draw.
In the fourth game, the players went for the Rossolimo Sicilian, where Black managed to create counterplay by carrying out the f7-f5 breakthrough. Concrete play emerged on both sides of the board. In the middlegame Lagno was spending a lot of time, however, by the move 16 Black's position was already better due to the semi-open g-file and dangerous attacking prospects.
After White's queenside play was exhausted, Kateryna switched to the other side of the board. However, the raid of her knight could become crucial, had the Chinese found the most principled reply. Ju Wenjun preferred a more solid move. The computer does not approve Black's decision to trade the dark-squared bishop for the knight, however, it allowed Ju Wenjun to triple her major pieces on the g-file.
White needed to play with extreme precision to hold the balance, which proved an overwhelming task under the heavy time pressure. One blunder made White's position hopeless. The game ended in Black's favour after a swift attack with a rook sacrifice.
Ju Wenjun equalized the score, and the winner was determined on the tie-break, which took place on November 23.
In the first rapid game Ju Wenjun had White. It was a relatively peaceful game in the Queen's Gambit Accepted. Black managed to equalize, and the game logically ended in a draw.
In the next 25-minute game the players went for the Catalan Opening. Once again they were reluctant to take risks. The game ended peacefully in an endgame with opposite-coloured bishops and an extra pawn to White.
Lagno had White in the first 10-minute game. The position was balanced for a while, but in a minor piece ending Ju Wenjun utilized the opponent's error, won a pawn and gradually converted her material advantage.
In the second blitz game Lagno tried to create a sharp game, but Ju Wenjun remained fully in control. In an equal position Lagno blundered a queen and lost.
The final score is 5-3 in favour of Ju Wenjun, who successfully defended her title in a knock-out World Championship, which has never happened before.
Kateryna Lagno qualified to the 2019 Women's Candidates Tournament, together with Alexandra Kosteinuk and Mariya Muzychuk.
The Closing Ceremony of the championship was attended by Natalia Komarova, Governor of Ugra, Sergey Kosilov, Deputy Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation, Arkady Dvorkovich, FIDE President, Andrey Filatov, RCF President, and other official guests.
Sergey Kosilov and Arkady Dvorkovich delivered speeches and handed over the rewards and flowers to the finalists.