Lei Tingjie Resists Ju Wenjun’s Pressure To Draw Game 4 of 2023 FIDE Women’s Chess World Championship

Lei Tingjie Resists Ju Wenjun's Pressure To Draw Game 4 of 2023 FIDE Women's Chess World Championship


The longest game of the match so far saw GM Ju Wenjun shrug off an opening surprise to torture GM Lei Tingjie for five hours in game four of the 2023 FIDE Women’s World Championship. Lei didn’t crack, however, so the scores are still tied, at 2-2, going into the second rest day.

Game five, when Lei will have the white pieces, starts on Tuesday, July 11, at 3:00 a.m. ET / 09:00 CEST. 

  How to watch the 2023 FIDE Women’s World Chess Championship

Traditionally the women’s world championship has provided more decisive action than the overall championship. For instance, when Ju first won her title against GM Tan Zhongyi in 2018, there were five decisive games in a row. In contrast, an unbreakable record was set by the 2018 Carlsen-Caruana match, when all 12 classical games ended in draws.

This year, however, we were spoiled by witnessing five wins in the rollercoaster first seven games of the Nepomniachtchi-Ding match, while the women’s title match has seen “normal service” resumed, with the players employing deep preparation and reluctant to take undue risks.

Ju Wenjun Lei Tingjie
All four games have ended in draws so far in Shanghai. Photo: Stev Bonhage/FIDE.

Nevertheless, all the games so far have been hard-fought, with the five-hour, 63-move game four one of the toughest yet.  

Game 4: Ju Wenjun ½-½ Lei Tingjie 

How determined Lei is to snatch the crown from her Chinese colleague has been evident in her opening preparation, and in game four she again dictated the early action. Ju repeated her 1.d4 from game two, while Lei varied on move four by playing the Vienna Variation of the Queen’s Gambit with 4…dxc4 instead of her earlier Semi-Tarrasch with 4…c5. 

The opening has a reputation for sharp play, and that’s just what we saw after Ju went for the combative 5.e4. The problem for the reigning champion was that Lei’s preparation never seemed to end, as she took no pause for thought on any of her moves before playing the novelty 15…h6.

At the second time of asking, Ju did grab the pawn on a7 with 16.Rxa7, and a long strategic struggle began.

Lei Tingjie
Lei Tingjie was the better prepared player in the opening, but there was a long battle ahead. Photo: Stev Bonhage/FIDE.

At first it seemed Lei had everything worked out at home and was going to make an effortless draw with her well-placed pieces, but Ju, despite being a long way behind on the clock, stayed true to her approach to the match of keeping the game alive. First, she avoided a potential fast draw by repetition by playing 20.Bc1 instead of 20.Bd2.

Then she clung on to her extra pawn until the time control at move 40, when both players received 30 extra minutes on their clocks. 40.d5 kept some hopes of pressing with White’s connected kingside pawns.  

Ju Wenjun
Ju has looked frustrated after the last two games, but she’s begun to seize the initiative in the match. Photo: Stev Bonhage/FIDE.

Ju did eventually give up her extra pawn but in return for dangerous pressure, while Lei’s advantage on the clock had withered away. Naroditsky waxed lyrically about Ju’s Carlsen-esque ability to keep generating chances.

It was very close, with Lei’s 53…Bc5+?! flagged as an inaccuracy by the computer.

Lei said afterward that she thought the result might be different if Ju had here played 54.Ke2!, saving a tempo and avoiding some tricks involving …f5, Bxf5 and …Rf3+. Instead 54.Kf1!? left Lei just enough time to defend, though the margins remained narrow. 59…Bd6! was an only move. 

It’s essential to be able to meet 60.e7 with 60…Bf4+! 61.Ke2 Re3+, stopping the pawn.

In the game, Ju finally acquiesced to a draw, shuffling her rook between d8 and e8, while Ju moved her bishop between d6 and e7.

GM Rafael Leitao has annotated the game below.

That means that one third of the way through the match the score remains level at 2-2. Who will be the first to break through?

Fed Name Rtg 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 Score
Ju Wenjun 2564 ½ ½ ½ ½

Lei Tingjie 2554 ½ ½ ½ ½


After a rest day, the battle continues on Tuesday when Lei has the white pieces in game five.

The 2023 FIDE Women’s World Championship (FWWC) is the most important women’s over-the-board event of the year. The defending women’s world champion, GM Ju Wenjun, faces the challenger, GM Lei Tingjie, to see who will be crowned world champion. The championship started on July 5 and boasts a €500,000 prize fund.

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