Women’s quickplay

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

Ju Wenjun
GM Ju Wenjun

FIDE World Rapid Championship (women)
St. Petersburg, Russia
Dec. 26-28, 2018

Final Top Standings
(Rapid Ratings are used)

1. GM Ju Wenjun CHN 2584, 10.0/12

2-3. IM Sarasadat Khademalsharieh IRI 2402, GM Aleksandra Goryachkina RUS 2477, 9.0/12

4-9. GM Anna Muzychuk UKR 2595, GM Tan Zhongyi CHN 2442, IM Zhansaya Abdumalik KAZ 2444, GM Kateryna Lagno RUS 2539, GM Lei Tingjie CHN 2545, IM Anastasia Bodnaruk RUS 2442, 8.5/12

Total of 124 Participants

Time Control: 15 minutes for the entire game with 10 seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1

FIDE World Blitz Championship (women)
St. Petersburg, Russia
Dec. 29-30, 2018

Final Top Standings
(Blitz Ratings are used)

1. GM Kateryna Lagno RUS 2560, 13.5/17

2. IM Sarasadat Khademalsharieh IRI 2377, 13.0/17

3. GM Lei Tingjie CHN 2458, 12.5/17

4. GM Valentina Gunina RUS 2489, 12.0/17

5-7. GM Tan Zhongyi CHN 2494, GM Aleksandra Goryachkina RUS 2422, GM Anna Ushenina UKR 2419, 11.5/17

8-15. WCM Leya Garifullina RUS 2120, GM Ju Wenjun CHN 2558, WGM Zeinab Mamedjarova AZE 2271, IM Inna Gaponenko UKR 2314, GM Anna Muzychuk UKR 2559, GM Antoaneta Stefanova BUL 2490, IM Elisabeth Paehtz GER 2366, WFM Turmunkh Munkhzul MGL 1936, 11.0/17

Total of 125 Participants

Time Control: three minutes for the entire game with two seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1

The Chinese Grandmaster (GM) Ju Wenjun (born Jan. 31, 1991) was having a great 2018. In Marcb 2018 she challenged GM Tan Zhongyi for the women’s title and won it 5.5-4.5 to become the 17th Women’s World Chess Champion.

Then she led the Chinese women’s squad to the gold medal in the 2018 Batumi World Chess Olympiad and won the individual medal for best performance on board 1 with a score of five wins and four draws for 7/9.

The next world championship was held in November 2018 in Khanty-Mansiysk (don’t ask me why there were two world championships in the same year). The Khanty-Mansiysk event was a tough one as it was a KO tournament with 64 participants and Wenjun had to start from round 1 just like everybody else.

In two-game matches GM Ju defeated Australia’s WIM Kathryn Hardegen 2-0, the tough GM Irina Krush USA 2434 1.5-0.5, her compatriot WGM Zhai Mo CHN 2352 1.5-0.5, then WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova UZB 2335, 1.5-0.5 and then former women’s world champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk RUS 2543 1.5-0.5.

The final match to determine who gets the title was against Russia’s Kateryna Lagno, who we will talk more about later. They exchanged wins to finish with a tied match 2-2 in the standard time controls. The first two rapid tie-break games (25 minutes each with 10-second increments) were drawn but then Ju Wenjun won both quick rapid (10 min+10-second increment) games to retain her title.

Ju Wenjun came here to St. Petersburg with the goal of duplicating the “triple-crown” feat of Magnus Carlsen in 2014 when he won the world chess championship under all time controls: classical chess, rapid as well as blitz.

She almost got it. Wenjun won the rapid title a point clear of her closest pursuer, She also beat her main rival Kateryna Lagno quite decisively when the Ukrainian-turned Russian fell into an opening trap.

Ju, Wenjun (2575) — Lagno, Kateryna (2560) [B07]
FIDE Wch Rapid w St. Petersburg (9.1), 28.12.2018

1.d4 d6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.0–0 0–0 6.Re1 Nbd7 7.e4 e5 8.Nc3 c6 9.a4 Re8 10.h3 Qc7 11.a5 exd4 12.Nxd4 Nc5 13.Bf4

With a concrete threat which Kateryna does not notice.

13…Nh5? <D>

If Black had noticed the threat she would have played 13…Nfd7.


14.Ndb5! Qd7

The knight is immune to capture. 14…cxb5 15.Bxd6 with a very big advantage. Black cannot play 15…Qc6 because of 16.e5.

15.Bxd6 Ne6 16.Na3 Bd4 17.Nc4 Rd8 18.Qe2 Ng5 19.g4 Qe6 20.Bh2 Ng7 21.Rad1 h5 22.h4 Nh7 23.g5 Qe7 24.e5 Bg4 25.Bf3 Bxf3 26.Qxf3 Nf5 27.Qf4 Bxc3 28.bxc3 Rxd1 29.Rxd1 Rd8 30.Nd6 Qe6 31.Rd3 Nxd6 32.exd6 Nf8 33.Re3 Qd5 34.Qf6 Qd1+

[34…Rd7 35.Be5 White mates]

35.Kg2 Qd5+ 36.Kf1 Qc4+ 37.Kg1 Qg4+ 38.Bg3 Rd7 39.Re8

And now White has the killer threat of Rxf8+ Kxf8 Qh8 mate.

39…Qd1+ 40.Kh2 1–0

In the Blitz section though it was GM Kateryna Lagno who dominated. Let’s talk about her a bit.

Ekaterina Aleksandrovna Lagno was born Dec. 27, 1989 in Lviv, Ukraine. She represented Ukraine up to 2014 when she moved to Russia. She was a prodigy and attained the Woman’s Grandmaster title at the age of 12 years four months and two days. Twice she was European Women’s Champion and she earned two team gold medals at the women’s chess Olympiad. In 2006 as part of the Ukraine team and 2014 with Russia. She was the women’s world champion in rapid chess in 2014 and in blitz in 2010.

Lagno, Kateryna (2560) — Ju, Wenjun (2558) [D20]
FIDE Wch Blitz w St. Petersburg (11.1), 30.12.2018

Last November in her finals match with Wenjun at the Khanty Mansiysk women’s world chess championship Lagno won the second game and only needed a draw in the 4th and final standard game to win the title. Instead she got checkmated by Jun who launched an all-out kingside attack which she defended poorly against. Then there was this very bad loss against Ju in the Rapid portion (given above). This game must have been very satisfying for Lagno!

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.0–0 Be7 7.Re1 0–0 8.Bf1 d5 9.d4 Bd6 10.h3 h6 11.c4 dxc4 12.Bxc4

Who would have thought that a Petroff Defense can transpose to a Queen’s Gambit Accepted? You don’t believe me? Then look at the position after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 e5 4.Bxc4 exd4 5.exd4 Nf6 6.Nf3 Bd6 7h3 .0–0 8.0–0 h6. Does that look familiar?

12…Nc6 13.Nc3 Bf5 14.d5 Ne7 15.Nd4 Bd7 16.Qf3 Ng6 17.Ne6!?

Tactics like this work in blitz but I don’t think Kateryna would use this in a standard game.


Black should have played 17…Qe7! taking advantage of the fact that the white knight cannot retreat because then her e1–rook would be en prise. After 18.Bd2 fxe6 19.dxe6 Bc6 Black is doing very well.

18.dxe6 Ne5 19.exf7+ Kh8 20.Rxe5!

Kateryna clearly smells blood and pushes through her attack energetically.

20…Bxe5 21.Be3

Intending to go to c5.


Compounds the problem.

22.Bc5 Bd6 23.Rd1 Bxc5 24.Rxd8 Raxd8 25.g3 Bd4 26.Ne2 b5 27.Bb3 c5 28.Nf4 c4 29.Ng6+ Kh7 30.Nxf8+ Rxf8 31.Bc2+ Kh8 32.Qb7 Bc5 33.Qxb5 1–0

And what about GM Anna Muzychuk? When Chinese GM Hou Yifan announced her retirement to concentrate on her studies in Oxford, Muzychuk became the highest rated woman player. In fact, she is the fourth woman after Judit Polgar, Humpy Koneru and Hou Yifan to cross the 2600 ELO rating mark.

Muzychuk won the Women’s World Rapid Chess Championship in 2016, and the Women’s World Blitz Chess Championship in 2014 and 2016. How did she do here in St. Petersburg?

As you will see from the tables above she was 4th in the rapid and 12th in the blitz. She just could not get going. I would say though that I found the quality of her chess still on a high level, not counting some accidents. Here is a clean win from the Caro-Kann.

Muzychuk, Anna (2595) — Khotenashvili, Bela (2428) [B15]
FIDE Wch Rapid w St. Petersburg (4.3), 26.12.2018

Playing Black is GM Bela Khotenashvili, a mainstay of the powerhouse Georgian national women’s team.

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 0–0 8.Qc2 Re8+ 9.Ne2 h5 10.Be3 Nd7 11.0–0–0 Nf8

I should say that this formation is usually more successful for Black, but I don’t understand why. Surely it should be easier to get to the black king than the white one?

12.Ng3 g6 13.Ne4 f5 14.Nxd6 Qxd6 15.g3 Be6 16.c4 b5 17.d5 cxd5 18.c5 Qa6 19.b3 Rec8 20.Kb2 Qa5 21.Rhe1 b4?

A mistake. She should have played 21…Nd7 first, threatening to bring the knight to e5 and maybe sacrifice it on c4. If White responds 22.Bd4 then 22…Qb4! Black will win the c5–pawn.

22.Bd4! Rc6

22…Nd7 no longer works because of 23.c6 Nb6 24.Qd2 the long diagonal will doom Black’s king.

23.Qd2 Kh7 24.g4! hxg4

[24…fxg4 25.Qg5 with the murderous Qxh5+ coming up next]

25.Qg5 Nd7 26.Qh4+ 1–0

On Thursday, the Iranians are now a force in classical, rapid, and blitz chess!


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.