The First Draw: Lei’s Perceptive Pawn Sacrifice Equalizes

The First Draw: Lei's Perceptive Pawn Sacrifice Equalizes


After opening the match with back-to-back decisive results, GM Lei Tingjie and GM Tan Zhongyi made their first draw in game three of the final of the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament 2022-2023 on Friday.

With white, Tan explored a new move out of the opening, but Lei was well-prepared, neutralizing Tan’s first-move advantage with a perceptive pawn sacrifice. The players head into the rest day with a tied score. 

Game four is on Sunday, April 2, 2023, starting at 12 a.m. Pacific / 9:00 CET.

While Lei approached her game one loss by immediately striking back in round two, Tan responded with a more cautious approach, stabilizing the match situation as she recovers from defeat. In the Tarrasch Defense of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, both players virtually blitzed out the first 16 moves, heading straight into a queenless middlegame. In fact, Lei still had more time on her clock than she started with.

On move 17, Tan ventured a novelty with Ne5!? Ready for the challenge, Lei countered by ignoring her opponent’s threat with 17…O-O!, sacrificing a pawn to finish development―the only good move according to the engine.

In the resulting position, the vast activity of Lei’s pieces gave her comfortable equality, despite Tan’s extra outside passed pawn. The players soon reached an opposite-color bishop ending, but―unlike yesterday―there were no blunders or surprises. They agreed to a peaceful result on move 40. 

Here is the full game, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao.

With how easily Lei was able to neutralize Tan’s novelty and first move advantage, the momentum continues to be in the younger grandmaster’s favor. However, the shorter round today and rest day tomorrow will give Tan some time to reset after yesterday’s loss.

With the score tied and only three games remaining, the weight behind each and every move increases. Who will pull ahead in the second half?

The 2022-23 Women’s Candidates Tournament is an elite event featuring eight top female players, who compete in a knockout format for a share of the €250,000 prize fund and the right to play in the Women’s World Championship match against Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun.

The final is a six-game match between GMs Lei Tingjie and Tan Zhongyi from March 29-April 5. The prize fund is 110,000 euros. The time control is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move one. A draw offer before move 40 is not allowed. 

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