Wenjun Ju starts her Women's World Championship defense against Tingjie Lei starting today
The FIDE Women's World Championship Match 2023 starts today in Shanghai, China from 3 p.m. local time, 12:30 p.m. IST. The reigning Women's World Championn, Wenjun is set to defend her world title for the third time in her career. The Challenger Tingjie Lei won the Women's Candidates against the former Women's World Champion, Zhongyi Tan. At the draw of lots, Tingjie got the white pieces in Game 1. With Ding Liren becoming the new world champion few months ago, one thing is for sure, China is going to have a world champion in both Open and Women for at least another year. The total prize fund is €500000, winner will earn €300000 and the runner-up will receive €200000. Who do you think will win the match? Will we see the 18th women's world champion in the form of Tingjie Lei or will Wenjun Ju's reign continue? Photos: FIDE/Stev Bonhage
Tingjie Lei will start with white pieces in Game 1
The match for the title of the 18th Women's World Champion was officially opened in Shanghai. The drawing of lots determined that the challenger Lei Tingjie will start with the white pieces.
The 2023 FIDE Women's World Championship Match kicked off today in Shanghai, where the first part of the match to determine the 18th women's world champion will take place.
In a refined ceremony in the grand ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel, the two players – defending world champion Ju Wenjun and challenger Lei Tingjie - got up on stage with FIDE officials to choose the colours they will start the match with.
The ceremony had two stages: first, there was a drawing of lots to determine who would have the first choice in the drawing of colours. Secondly, there was the actual process of determining the colours. The first to choose in the first draw was the current Women's World Champion Wenjun Ju who picked up a box containing a black knight. This meant that Tingjie Lei would be the first to choose the pieces. In the second phase, Lei chose first, and she picked a box with the white queen, which signified that she would begin the match with the white pieces.
The ceremony had two stages: first, there was a drawing of lots to determine who would have the first choice in the drawing of colours. Secondly, there was the actual process of determining the colours. The first to choose in the first draw was the current Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun who picked up a box containing a black knight. This meant that Lei Tingjie would be the first to choose the pieces. In the second phase, Lei chose first, and she picked a box with the white queen, which signified that she would begin the match with the white pieces.
The opening ceremony was preceded by a press conference, where the hosts and players expressed their views and expectations about the match.
Tian Hongwei, General Secretary of the Chinese Chess Association, welcomed the chess world to China. Stressing the importance of the competition, Tian noted the contribution her country made to women's chess.
"This is the fourth time that two Chinese players compete for the Women's World Chess title after 2000, 2010 and 2018. This is enough to prove that the level of Chinese women's chess is at the top of the world, which is also the inevitable result of the popularization and development of Chinese chess," Tian said.
Dana Reizniece-Ozola, Deputy Chair of the FIDE Management Board and serving as the supervisor of the appeals committee for the match, expressed gratitude to the hosts for organizing the championship.
Reizniece-Ozola noted the significance of the event as FIDE prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary: "It's a special moment for FIDE as next year we will be celebrating our 100th anniversary. The winner of this match will be the champion in a year where we mark our first centenary".
The FIDE official also praised Chinese achievements in women's chess, noting that out of 17 women's world chess champions so far, six come from China. She highlighted the systematic support provided by the Chinese government for chess – including the use of the game in education - and praised China's recent victories in the chess world, including Ding Liren's triumph in the world championship match earlier in the year.
Then it was time for the players to speak.
The challenger, Tingjie Lei, has proved to be one of the best players in the world. She qualified from the Grand Swiss Tournament held in 2019 and went on to win the Women's Candidates. As for Wenjun Ju, she is a role model not only for young girls and women but also for male chess players. She is among the six women in history who excelled the Elo of 2600 and has already defended her title twice.
The defending World Champion Wenjun Ju expressed her enthusiasm for the match, anticipating an exciting three weeks of competition: "It will be exciting and a lot of fighting spirit for the next three weeks. I feel I will do my best, also because of my love for chess. I will do everything to fight and win every game".
For Wenjun, this is her third championship match. When asked if this duel is any different from the previous ones, she said: "Every match is very important and tells its own story. I will consider this as a new match and will do my best… I will do everything to fight and win every game".
Tingjie Lei seemed relaxed ahead of the match, despite being one of the youngest challengers ever (at the age of 26): "I want to win, but I am here to improve myself. I will try my best to play good chess. I am the challenger so I don't feel any pressure at all".
"I have a good team, and things are going well. My mood is good, I am happy to be here and ready to fight," Tingjie added.
The two players who are at the top of the Chinese and world chess know each other well for years.
"I learnt a lot about chess from Ju. She is one of the top players in the world, and I have been following her games closely", Tingjie said.
"First time I met Lei, she was a kid. She is an excellent chess player, especially taking into account her young age", the defending champion Wenjun Ju noted.
For the next three weeks, the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Chongqing will play host to the Women's World Championship match. As both of the contenders come from China, it was decided that their native cities host the event: the first part of the match will take place in Shanghai, the home city of defending champion Wenjun Ju while the second part will take place in Chongqing, where the challenger Tingjie Lei is from.
Officials from both cities were present at the event and stressed their support in promoting the match. Shanghai plans to hold a series of events to promote chess, including grandmasters going out and playing chess with the public.
Shanghai's official Shan Xiali pointed out the rich history of chess in the city, also known as the "Paris of the East": "The relationship between Shanghai and chess has a long history. Shanghai is an early city in China to promote chess. The city also has a good chess mass base and cultural atmosphere, and many excellent chess players are from Shanghai".
As the women's world chess caravan will move to the central Chinese city of Chongqing from the 14th of July, the authorities there have noted they have done four rounds of meticulous training for their staff to make this "the best sports event ever".
The FIDE Women's World Championship Match 2023 is anticipated to be an intense battle between Tingjie Lei and Wenjun Ju, showcasing their exceptional skills and determination.
The first round of the match will be held on Wednesday, the 5th of July, at 3 p.m. local time in Shanghai (GMT+8), 12:30 p.m. IST.
From the 3rd to the 24th July, China will host the match for the title of Women's World Champion. In a year which saw the country of the Red Dragon clinch the ultimate world chess crown as Ding Liren defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi in Astana, the forthcoming women's duel in China adds to the anticipation of a great battle as the eyes of the entire chess world will be on the country. It will be the first major chess event played in China since its player took the ultimate world title.
The highly anticipated match between the current World Champion, Wenjun Ju, and the Challenger, Tingjie Lei, is scheduled to take place in the cities of Shanghai and Chongqing. These cities hold significance as they are the birthplaces of the respective participants. Ju Wenjun will have the advantage of home turf first, as her native Shanghai will host the first part of the match. Still, it should be noted that playing in front of your home audience is not always an upside and can sometimes be a psychological hurdle.
The reigning World Champion and the Challenger
Wenjun Ju, the defending Champion, has a lot of experience in major events. With two World Championship matches under her belt and overall seven attempts at the World Championships, her nerves are trained to withstand formidable pressure. It is worth reminding the readers that the previous match ended in a razor-thin victory for Wenjun. In 2020, playing against Aleksandra Goryachkina, the classical part of the match ended in a tie, 6-6, where the Russian player levelled the score in the last game! Wenjun's ability to regain her composure and hold steady after a heavy blow in the critical game of the match was manifested in the rapid tiebreak, where she won with 2.5-1.5.
The Challenger, Tingjie Lei, had an impressive run to reach the match. Starting with a triumph at the 2021 Grand Swiss, she qualified for the world title tournament cycle. In the process, she scored victories in the Candidates matches over Mariya Muzychuk, Anna Muzychuk, and Zhongyi Tan, confidently securing the Challenger title.
While it is expected for the world champion and challenger to 'disappear' from public light in the run up to the match, Wenjun Ju took part in the highly competitive 6th Sharjah Masters at the end of May. In a very strong competition – with top male Grandmasters playing – Wenjun turned in a very solid performance defeating GMs Karthikeyan and Vidit in the first two rounds and finishing with 4.5/9. The Women's World Champion's performance rating stood at an impressive 2680, indicating her strong form.
In contrast, Tingjie Lei has not competed since her convincing victory over compatriot Tan Zhongyi in the Candidates final, which concluded in early April. Lei won the match with a round to spare. Her absence from the spotlight after the Candidates suggests Lei is focused on preparation and staging uncomfortable surprises for her opponent.
The head-to-head record also suggests a tough challenge for both sides.
Since 2011, when their first game was recorded, the two have played 15 times – eight in classical time control, three rapid games, one blitz, as well as three online/exhibition events. The overall score is 10-5 for Ju, but she scored the majority of the victories when Tingjie was just coming up through the ranks. A more recent look at the results shows that Wenjun Ju has a slight edge at best.
What to expect in China?
A riveting showdown awaits us this July, brimming with anticipation and excitement. As the defending champion and more experienced player, Wenjun Ju has some advantage, albeit a slight one. But Tingjie Lei, who has been displaying an extraordinary level of play as of late, may prove to deliver in that final mile where Goryachkina failed in 2020 and clinch the title. A clash of this magnitude is bound to captivate chess enthusiasts around the world.
Following up on Ding Liren's victory in the World title match in Astana, the women's duel in July will be an opportunity for China to showcase its chess tradition and glory to the world, reaffirming its claim to be the new home of chess and returning the game home, closer to its eastern roots.
Key facts about the match
The match will take place in two Chinese cities, where each of the players come from. The first half of the match will be held in Shanghai, while the second half takes place in Chongqing.
The match will consist of 12 games of classical chess. The players will have 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 more minutes for the rest of the game, plus a 30-second increment per move starting on move one.
Players cannot offer a draw before they reach the 41st move.
In case of a tie, there will be the following tiebreaks:
Four games with a 25+10 time control.
Two games with a 5+3 time control.
Two more games with a 5+3 time control.
One game with a 3+2 time control until a winner is determined.
The event prize fund is €500,000, with €300,000 going to the winner and the remaining €200,000 to the runner-up.
If the outcome of the match is decided upon tiebreaks, the winner will take €275,000, while the runner-up will receive €225,000.