The Women's World Champions

The Women's world championship was established in 1927 and has been contested continuously since 1950. The format never seems to be settled, being a mixture of all-play-all tournaments, matches and knockout tournaments over the years.

Vera Menchik 1927–1944     Russia/Czechoslovakia/UK
[left vacant] 1944–1950     N/A (World War II)
Lyudmila Rudenko 1950–1953     Soviet Union
Elisaveta Bykova 1953–1956 1958–1962   Soviet Union
Olga Rubtsova 1956–1958     Soviet Union
Elisaveta Bykova 1958–1962     Soviet Union
Nona Gaprindashvili 1962–1978     Soviet Union
Maia Chiburdanidze 1978–1991     Soviet Union
Xie Jun 1991–1996 1999–2001   China
Susan Polgar 1996–1999     Hungary
Xie Jun 1999–2001     China
Zhu Chen 2001–2004     China
Antoaneta Stefanova 2004–2006     Bulgaria
Xu Yuhua 2006–2008     China
Alexandra Kosteniuk 2008–2010     Russia
Hou Yifan 2010–2012 2013–2015 2016–2017 China
Anna Ushenina 2012–2013     Ukraine
Hou Yifan 2013–2015     China
Mariya Muzychuk 2015–2016     Ukraine
Hou Yifan 2016–2017     China
Tan Zhongyi 2017–2018     China
Ju Wenjun 2018–     China


Vera Menchik

Vera Menchik-Stevenson was the first Women's World Champion and held the title for many years (becoming Champion 8 times).

She was also the first woman to compete at the top level, and had wins against many masters, including Euwe (twice) around the time he was a World Championship contender.

At her first tournament, there was a certain amount of snide comment from the men: one even suggested there should be set up a 'Vera Menchik Club', as a group for any men unlucky enough to lose to a mere woman. Of course Becker was its first member! That sort of nonsense should have died there and then but I fear it has not.

She wasn't normally a flashy player but was deadly with her slow-building attacks and deceptive counters. Here she comes up with the most attractive way to obtain Blackburne's mate -- what a final move!

[Event "Semmering"]
[Site "Semmering"]
[Date "1937.??.??"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "?"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Vera Menchik"]
[Black "Sonja Graf-Stevenson"]
[ECO "D46"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "41"]

1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.e3 c6 6.Bd3 Be7 7.O-O
O-O 8.e4 dxe4 9.Nxe4 Nxe4 10.Bxe4 Nf6 11.Bc2 c5 12.dxc5 Qa5
13.Be3 Bxc5 14.Bd2 Qc7 15.Bc3 Be7 16.Qe2 b6 17.Ng5 g6 18.Qf3
Bb7 19.Qh3 h5 20.Rad1 Ng4 21.Rd7 1-0

Lyudmila Rudenko

FIDE re-founded the Championship in 1950, when the title was won by Rudenko, then aged 45. She was a champion swimmer as well as a chessplayer.

Here she is beating a powerful rival with in the championship tournament one of her favourite gnarly hypermodern White openings. The second and third placed players were later champions, and contested a three-way tournament in 1956.

[Event "Moscow, WCH Woman RUS"]
[Site "Moscow URS"]
[Date "1949.12.22"]
[EventDate "1949.12.00"]
[Round "2"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Lyudmila Rudenko"]
[Black "Elisaveta Bykova"]
[ECO "E01"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "95"]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Nc6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3
O-O 8.Bg5 dxc4 9.e4 h6 10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.f4 Bd7 12.Nf3 Rab8
13.O-O b5 14.Qe2 Qe7 15.g4 g6 16.h4 Kg7 17.h5 a6 18.g5 Rh8
19.hxg6 fxg6 20.gxh6+ Rxh6 21.Ng5 e5 22.Qe3 exd4 23.cxd4 Nd8
24.d5 Nf7 25.Qd4+ Kg8 26.Nf3 Bh3 27.e5 Bxg2 28.Kxg2 Rd8 29.Rh1
Qf8 30.e6 Rxh1 31.exf7 Qxf7 32.Rxh1 Qg7 33.Ne5 g5 34.f5 Re8
35.Re1 Qf6 36.Nf3 Qf7 37.Nxg5 Qf8 38.Rxe8 Qxe8 39.Ne6 Qf7
40.Qg4+ Kh8 41.Kf3 Qh7 42.Qg6 Qh1+ 43.Kg4 Qg2+ 44.Kh5 Qh3+
45.Kg5+ Qg3+ 46.Kf6 Qh4+ 47.Kf7 Qh7+ 48.Kf8 1-0

Elisaveta Bykova

Twice winning the Championship in the 1950s, Bykova was a constant advocate for women's chess through her writing.

Her match with Rudenko was decisive: 5-2 with no draws!

[Event "World Championship (Women)"]
[Site "Leningrad URS"]
[Date "1953.09.13"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "12"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Elisaveta Bykova"]
[Black "Lyudmila Rudenko"]
[ECO "B30"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[Source "Perpetual Check"]
[PlyCount "88"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d3 d6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O Nf6 7. Nbd2 O-O 8. Re1
Qc7 9. Nf1 Rb8 10. Bg5 h6 11. Bd2 b5 12. Qc1 Kh7 13. Nh4 c4 14. f4 a5 15. h3
Bb7 16. g4 Nb4 17. a3 Na6 18. d4 b4 19. c3 bxc3 20. bxc3 Ba8 21. Qc2 Rb3 22.
Reb1 a4 23. Be3 Qa5 24. Rc1 Rfb8 25. Nd2 Rb2 26. Qd1 Qb5 27. Rab1 d5 28. e5 Ng8
29. f5 g5 30. Nhf3 e6 31. Ne1 Bf8 32. Nc2 exf5 33. gxf5 Qd7 34. f6 Rxb1 35.
Rxb1 Rxb1 36. Qxb1 Qf5 37. Qd1 Qd3 38. Qh5 Qg6 39. Qxg6+ Kxg6 40. Nxc4 Nc7 41.
Nb6 h5 42. Nxa8 Nxa8 43. Bxd5 Nb6 44. Be4+ 1-0

Olga Rubtsova

Rubtsova only player, male or female, to become world champion in both over-the-board and correspondence chess.

This was the shortest game of the three-way tournament of 1956: won in a Pawn endgame!

[Event "wcc (women)"]
[Site "Moscow URS"]
[Date "1956.09.23"]
[EventDate "1956.08.22"]
[Round "24"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Olga Rubtsova"]
[Black "Lyudmila Rudenko"]
[ECO "B68"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "55"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2
a6 8.O-O-O Bd7 9.f4 Be7 10.Nf3 Qa5 11.e5 Nd5 12.Nxd5 Qxd2+
13.Rxd2 exd5 14.Bxe7 Kxe7 15.Rxd5 dxe5 16.Nxe5 Rhd8 17.Rxd7+
Rxd7 18.Nxd7 Kxd7 19.Bc4 f5 20.Re1 Re8 21.Rxe8 Kxe8 22.Bd5 Nd4
23.Kd2 b6 24.a4 Ke7 25.Kd3 Ne6 26.Bxe6 Kxe6 27.Kd4 Kd6 28.b4

Nona Gaprindashvili

Gaprindashvili was the first woman to gain the GM title and her greatest triumph was her tie for first place at Lone Pine 1977, coming ahead of any number of GMs and future GMs while still only an IM herself.

She had an aggressive style and played late into her life. Here she upsets Judit Polgar with a neat finish.

[Event "Chess Olympiad (Women)"]
[Site "Novi Sad YUG"]
[Date "1990.11.20"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "4"]
[Result "0-1"]
[White "Judit Polgar"]
[Black "Nona Gaprindashvili"]
[ECO "C43"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "62"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.Nxe5 Nd7 6.Nxd7 Bxd7
7.O-O Qh4 8.c4 O-O-O 9.c5 g5 10.Nc3 Bg7 11.Ne2 Rhe8 12.Qe1 Nf6
13.Qd2 Ne4 14.Qa5 Kb8 15.f3 Nf6 16.g3 Qh5 17.a4 Ng4 18.fxg4
Bxg4 19.Nf4 Bxd4+ 20.Kg2 gxf4 21.Bxf4 Be5 22.c6 Bc8 23.Qb4 Bd6
24.Qb3 Bxf4 25.Rxf4 Re3 26.Qc2 Qh3+ 27.Kh1 Rxg3 28.cxb7 Bxb7
29.Rxf7 Rc8 30.Bb5 d4 31.Bc6 Rc3 0-1

Maia Chiburdanidze

Like Gaprindashvili, a Georgian player, Chiburdanidze had a marked attacking style and dominated her generation of women players, taking the title at 17.

This attractive game was played just before Short got the GM title.

[Event "Dortmund"]
[Site "Dortmund FRG"]
[Date "1983.04.??"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "5"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Maia Chiburdanidze"]
[Black "Nigel Short"]
[ECO "B16"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "55"]

1.Nc3 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nxe4 Nf6 4.Nxf6+ gxf6 5.d4 c6 6.Be2 Qc7
7.Nf3 Bg4 8.c4 e6 9.O-O Nd7 10.d5 O-O-O 11.dxe6 Ne5 12.Nd2
Bxe6 13.Qa4 Rg8 14.Ne4 Bxc4 15.Bh5 Bxf1 16.Kxf1 Nd3 17.Qxa7
Qe5 18.Be3 Qxe4 19.Qa8+ Kc7 20.Bb6+ Kxb6 21.Qxd8+ Kc5 22.b4
Kxb4 23.Bf3 Qe5 24.Rb1+ Nb2 25.Qd2+ Ka3 26.Rxb2 b5 27.Rb3+ Ka4
28.Bd1 1-0

Xie Jun

The first of the Chinese wave of women players, Xie also had a lively attacking style and had two separate reigns as Champion.

I'd normally show her victory against Short, but I liked this one better. Larsen had dropped out of the elite of chess some time earlier but was always a formidable opponent.

[Event "Women-Veterans"]
[Site "Monte Carlo MNC"]
[Date "1994.06.??"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "1"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Xie Jun"]
[Black "Bent Larsen"]
[ECO "B06"]
[WhiteElo "2515"]
[BlackElo "2560"]
[PlyCount "61"]

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 d6 5.h3 Nf6 6.a4 O-O 7.Be3
Nbd7 8.Be2 e5 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.O-O Qe7 11.Qd3 a5 12.Qc4 Re8
13.Rfd1 h6 14.Nd2 Nh7 15.Qb3 Ng5 16.Nc4 Nc5 17.Qa3 Nce6
18.Qxe7 Rxe7 19.Nb6 Rb8 20.Bg4 Re8 21.Bxg5 hxg5 22.Nb1 Bf8
23.Nd2 Bc5 24.Ndc4 Bxb6 25.Nxb6 Kf8 26.Rd2 Ke7 27.Rad1 Rf8
28.Nxc8+ Rfxc8 29.Rd7+ Kf6 30.Bxe6 fxe6 31.g4 1-0

Polgar Susan (Zsuzsa)

The oldest Polgar sister was also the youngest player to get the GM title at 15 and change, beating Fischer's record (since beaten in turn).

Since winning the Women's Championship title, Polgar settled in the US and has focussed on teaching and the development of children's chess.

Her match against Xie had many decisive games for both players (Xie won the second game in 17 moves!).

[Event "Wch (Women)"]
[Site "Jaen ESP"]
[Date "1996.02.06"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "5"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Zsuzsa Polgar"]
[Black "Xie Jun"]
[ECO "C45"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "49"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Nxc6 Qf6 6.Qd2 dxc6
7.Nc3 Be6 8.Na4 Rd8 9.Bd3 Bd4 10.c3 b5 11.cxd4 bxa4 12.Qc2
Qxd4 13.Qxc6+ Kf8 14.Be2 Ne7 15.Qc2 f5 16.O-O Qxe4 17.Qxc7 Kf7
18.Bh5+ g6 19.Bf3 Qc4 20.Qxa7 Qd4 21.Qa5 Nd5 22.Rd1 Qc4 23.Bg5
Rd7 24.Rac1 Qxa2 25.Bxd5 1-0

Zhu Chen

Zhu beat Kosteniuk in a close final in 2001. She gave up her title when the proposed event clashed with her pregnancy.

Zhu now lives and works in Qatar.

This powerful game is from the Championship match.

[Event "Women's World Championship Knockout Tournament"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2001.12.14"]
[EventDate "2001.11.27"]
[Round "6.5"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Zhu Chen"]
[Black "Alexandra Kosteniuk"]
[ECO "D30"]
[WhiteElo "2497"]
[BlackElo "2455"]
[PlyCount "83"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c6 4. e3 Nf6 5. Bd3 Nbd7 6. O-O dxc4
7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 a6 9. a4 b4 10. e4 c5 11. Nbd2 cxd4 12. e5
Nd5 13. Ne4 Qc7 14. Bb1 Nxe5 15. Nxd4 Be7 16. Re1 Bb7 17. Qh5
Ng6 18. Ng5 Bxg5 19. Bxg6 O-O-O 20. Bxf7 Bf6 21. Nxe6 Qe7
22. Bd2 g6 23. Nxd8 Qxd8 24. Qg4+ Kb8 25. Bxb4 Nxb4 26. Qxb4
Qd7 27. Bc4 Qc6 28. Bf1 Bd8 29. Rac1 Qf6 30. Qc3 Qf8 31. Qe5+
Ka8 32. b4 Bb6 33. Rc2 Qd8 34. a5 Ba7 35. Rd2 Qc8 36. Rc1 Qf8
37. b5 Bb8 38. Qc3 Qh6 39. g3 Rc8 40. Qxc8 Bxc8 41. Rxc8 Kb7
42. Rdd8 1-0

Antoaneta Stefanova

Stefanova was the first World Girls U10 Champion, and first represented Bulgaria in senior chess in an Olympiad at age 13. She was victorious in the 64-player knockout in 2004, and narrowly lost to Ushenina in 2012.

In later life, she has turned to politics (mainstream politics, not chess politics).

Her style is often as aggressive as any of her predecessors

[Event "Gibraltar Chess Festival"]
[Site "Gibraltar ENG"]
[Date "2008.01.23"]
[EventDate "2008.01.22"]
[Round "2"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Antoaneta Stefanova"]
[Black "Mikhail Gurevich"]
[ECO "A81"]
[WhiteElo "2464"]
[BlackElo "2607"]
[PlyCount "61"]

1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Nh3 g6 4. Nf4 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. h4 Nc6
7. h5 g5 8. h6 Bh8 9. Nd3 Nxd4 10. Bxg5 Ne6 11. Bh4 d5 12. Nd2
c6 13. c4 Ne4 14. cxd5 cxd5 15. Nf3 Qd6 16. Qb3 Bd7 17. Nf4
Bc6 18. Nxe6 Qxe6 19. Rd1 a5 20. Nd4 Qf7 21. g4 Bxd4 22. Rxd4
e5 23. gxf5 exd4 24. Bxe4 Rae8 25. Qg3+ Kh8 26. Bd3 b5 27. Qf4
Qa7 28. Qd6 Qf7 29. Rg1 b4 30. Rg7 Qh5 31. Rg8+ 1-0

Xu Yuhua

Following Xie's lead, Xu won the big knockout event in 2006, winning two games as Black against Galliamova.

Here is the second and decisive game, where Xu had to play calmly facing a White advantage:

[Event "Gibraltar Chess Festival"]
[Site "Gibraltar ENG"]
[Date "2008.01.23"]
[EventDate "2008.01.22"]
[Round "2"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Antoaneta Stefanova"]
[Black "Mikhail Gurevich"]
[ECO "A81"]
[WhiteElo "2464"]
[BlackElo "2607"]
[PlyCount "61"]

1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Nh3 g6 4. Nf4 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. h4 Nc6
7. h5 g5 8. h6 Bh8 9. Nd3 Nxd4 10. Bxg5 Ne6 11. Bh4 d5 12. Nd2
c6 13. c4 Ne4 14. cxd5 cxd5 15. Nf3 Qd6 16. Qb3 Bd7 17. Nf4
Bc6 18. Nxe6 Qxe6 19. Rd1 a5 20. Nd4 Qf7 21. g4 Bxd4 22. Rxd4
e5 23. gxf5 exd4 24. Bxe4 Rae8 25. Qg3+ Kh8 26. Bd3 b5 27. Qf4
Qa7 28. Qd6 Qf7 29. Rg1 b4 30. Rg7 Qh5 31. Rg8+ 1-0

Alexandra Kosteniuk

Kosteniuk made a big splash in the world of women's chess, with many tournament victories and publicity events.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, she plays under the Swiss flag. She no longer is at the top of women's chess but continues to play and has a podcast of chess tips.

Here's a crisp win as Black from her winning run (beating 14-year-old Hou Yifan in the final):

[Event "Women's World Championship Knockout Tournament"]
[Site "Nalchik RUS"]
[Date "2008.09.08"]
[EventDate "2008.08.29"]
[Round "4.2"]
[Result "0-1"]
[White "Anna Ushenina"]
[Black "Alexandra Kosteniuk"]
[ECO "E34"]
[WhiteElo "2476"]
[BlackElo "2510"]
[PlyCount "52"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 c5
7. dxc5 h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 Ne4 10. e3 Qa5 11. Be5 O-O 12. Bd3
Nc6 13. Bxe4 Nxe5 14. Bh7+ Kg7 15. Bd3 b6 16. cxb6 d4 17. exd4
Nxd3+ 18. Qxd3 Re8+ 19. Kd1 Bf5 20. Qd2 Bxc3 21. Qxc3 Qxb6
22. Ne2 Rac8 23. Qa3 Rc2 24. Re1 Rd8 25. Qe3 Qxb2 26. Rc1 Re8

Hou Yifan

The youngest female GM and the youngest Women's World Champion for the first time at 16, and twice more since. Hou has transformed from brilliant prodigy to a formidable adult player, preferring these days mostly open (mixed) events, and in 2015 preferred to play one of those than fight again for her world title. She was the first woman to crack the 'elite GM' 2700 rating and has been the No.1 ranked woman in the world since September 2015 [posted Autumn 2023 ]. She is now semi-retired from chess and works as a University professor.

[Event "Tradewise Gibraltar"]
[Site "La Caleta GIB"]
[Date "2012.02.01"]
[EventDate "2012.01.24"]
[Round "9"]
[Result "0-1"]
[White "Alexey Shirov"]
[Black "Yifan Hou"]
[ECO "B97"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "106"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4
Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.e5 h6 11.Bh4 dxe5 12.fxe5 Nd5
13.Nxd5 exd5 14.e6 Bxe6 15.Nxe6 fxe6 16.Be2 Be7 17.Bh5+ Kd8
18.Bxe7+ Qxe7 19.O-O Nd7 20.Rxb7 Qc5+ 21.Kh1 Rb8 22.Rxb8+ Nxb8
23.Qe2 Qb5 24.Qxb5 axb5 25.Rf7 Nc6 26.Rxg7 Rf8 27.Kg1 Nb4
28.Rb7 Nxc2 29.Rxb5 Ke7 30.a4 Ra8 31.Rb2 Ne3 32.Kf2 Nc4
33.Rb7+ Kd6 34.Bd1 e5 35.Rh7 Nb2 36.Rxh6+ Kc5 37.Bc2 Nxa4
38.h4 Nc3 39.Bf5 Ra2+ 40.Kf1 Ra1+ 41.Kf2 Ra2+ 42.Kf1 Nd1 43.g4
Ne3+ 44.Ke1 Kd4 45.Bc8 Ng2+ 46.Kd1 e4 47.h5 e3 48.Ba6 Nf4
49.Rb6 Nd3 50.Bxd3 Kxd3 51.Rb3+ Ke4 52.h6 d4 53.h7 Rh2 0-1

Anna Ushenina

Ushenina won on tie-break against Stefanova in 2012.

The deciding game features many nice points -- sacrifice and Zugzwang among them

[Event "Women's World Championship Knockout Tournament"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2012.11.29"]
[EventDate "2012.11.11"]
[Round "6.3"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Anna Ushenina"]
[Black "Antoaneta Stefanova"]
[ECO "D15"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "73"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6 5. c5 Nbd7 6. Bf4 Nh5
7. Bd2 Nhf6 8. Rc1 g6 9. h3 Qc7 10. g3 Bg7 11. Bf4 Qd8 12. Bg2
O-O 13. O-O Nh5 14. Bd2 f5 15. Qb3 e5 16. Ng5 exd4 17. Nxd5
cxd5 18. Bxd5+ Kh8 19. Ne6 Qf6 20. Nxf8 Qxf8 21. Bxb7 Rb8
22. c6 Nc5 23. Qb6 Nxb7 24. Qa7 Be5 25. c7 Ra8 26. Qxa8 Qe8
27. Qxa6 Nc5 28. Qa8 Ne4 29. Rc2 Nxd2 30. Rxd2 Kg7 31. Rc2 Kh6
32. b4 Bd6 33. Qd5 Nxg3 34. Qxd6 Nxf1 35. Qxd4 g5 36. Qf6+ Kh5
37. Rc6 1-0

Mariya Muzychuk

One of a pair of strong chess-playing sisters, Mariya Muzychuk declined to defend her titles in 2017 when she found she would have to submit to local restrictions on movement and dress when the Championship was held in Iran.

Muzychuk has great tactical alertness, and leans towards open positions and attacking play, as shown in this game. Koneru has great positional understanding but collapsed in the complications.

[Event "Women's World Championship Knockout Tournament"]
[Site "Sochi RUS"]
[Date "2015.03.26"]
[EventDate "2015.03.17"]
[Round "4.1"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Mariya Muzychuk"]
[Black "Koneru Humpy"]
[ECO "C45"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "57"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 5. Be3 Qf6 6. c3
Nge7 7. g3 d5 8. Bg2 dxe4 9. O-O O-O 10. Nd2 Bb6 11. Re1 Nxd4
12. Nxe4 Qf5 13. Bxd4 Nc6 14. Bxb6 axb6 15. f4 Be6 16. b3 h6
17. h3 Ra3 18. Qd2 Qa5 19. b4 Qa4 20. g4 Rd8 21. Qf2 Rxa2
22. Rxa2 Bxa2 23. b5 Na7 24. g5 hxg5 25. Nxg5 f6 26. Qd2 Rf8
27. Bd5+ Bxd5 28. Qxd5+ Kh8 29. Qf7 1-0

Zhongyi Tan

The generation of Chinese players to follow Xie has a lot of strength in depth.

Here's a game from her winning performance in 2017, showing some nifty Rook play.

[Event "Women's World Championship Knockout Tournament"]
[Site "Tehran IRI"]
[Date "2017.02.21"]
[EventDate "2017.02.11"]
[Round "4.2"]
[Result "0-1"]
[White "Ju Wenjun"]
[Black "Tan Zhongyi"]
[ECO "E04"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "74"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. Bg2 c5 6. O-O Nc6
7. Qa4 Bd7 8. Qxc4 b5 9. Qd3 c4 10. Qd1 Rc8 11. Re1 Be7 12. e4
O-O 13. d5 exd5 14. exd5 Nb4 15. Ne5 Bf5 16. g4 Bc2 17. Qf3
Be4 18. Rxe4 Nxe4 19. Qxe4 Bd6 20. Bd2 Re8 21. f4 f6 22. Bxb4
Bxb4 23. d6 Qxd6 24. Qd5+ Qxd5 25. Bxd5+ Kf8 26. Nc6 Re1+
27. Kf2 Rce8 28. Nxb4 R8e2+ 29. Kf3 Rxb2 30. Nc6 c3 31. Nxc3
Rxa1 32. Ke3 Re1+ 33. Kf3 Rd2 34. Be4 a6 35. h4 Rc1 36. Ne2
Rc4 37. Ke3 Rxe2+ 0-1

Ju Wenjun

Ju won a close match against Zhongyi in 2018 but has been a powerful force since then. The match format (as opposed to the accident-prone knockout tournaments) has made it more likely that the favourite wins.

Wenjun broke through the 'super-GM' rating barrier at ELO 2600 but has slipped since; Hou stands at the top

Here's a terrific fighting win against a strong young rival, at a point where she was behind in the match. A visit to Tal's 'deep dark forest'!

[Event "Ju - Goryachkina Women's World Championship Match"]
[Site "Vladivostok RUS"]
[Date "2020.01.19"]
[EventDate "2020.01.05"]
[Round "9"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Ju Wenjun"]
[Black "Aleksandra Goryachkina"]
[ECO "A06"]
[WhiteElo "2584"]
[BlackElo "2578"]
[PlyCount "124"]

1. Nf3 d5 2. b3 c5 3. e3 a6 4. Bb2 Nc6 5. d4 Nf6 6. Nbd2 cxd4
7. exd4 g6 8. a3 Bg7 9. Bd3 Nh5 10. g3 O-O 11. Ne5 Nxe5
12. dxe5 d4 13. f4 f6 14. Qe2 fxe5 15. fxe5 Bh6 16. O-O-O Be3
17. Rhf1 Bh3 18. Rxf8+ Qxf8 19. Kb1 b5 20. Nf1 Bg1 21. a4 bxa4
22. bxa4 Qc8 23. Bc4+ Kh8 24. e6 Nf6 25. Rxd4 Bxd4 26. Bxd4
Qb7+ 27. Ka2 Rd8 28. Bb2 Rb8 29. Bb3 Qg2 30. Qe5 Rxb3 31. cxb3
Qc6 32. Nd2 Bxe6 33. Ka3 Kg8 34. Nf3 Qd5 35. Qb8+ Kg7 36. Ne5
Qc5+ 37. Qb4 Qxb4+ 38. Kxb4 Kf8 39. Nc4 Ne4 40. Bd4 Ke8
41. Ka5 Nd6 42. Nd2 Bc8 43. Kb6 Kd8 44. Be5 Kd7 45. Bf4 g5
46. Bxg5 e5 47. Be3 Ke6 48. Kc7 Bd7 49. Bc5 Nf5 50. Kb6 Kd5
51. Nb1 e4 52. Nc3+ Ke5 53. Kxa6 e3 54. a5 Nd4 55. b4 Bg4
56. Kb6 e2 57. Bxd4+ Kxd4 58. Nxe2+ Bxe2 59. a6 Bf3 60. a7 h5
61. b5 Kc4 62. h3 Kd5 1-0

Tal originally expressed his creative approach as follows: "What do you do, when you need to win? Try to give mate? But your opponent will anticipate the attack already at birth and will take all necessary measures. Exploit positional weaknesses? Your opponent will not even think of creating them! Therefore nowadays the two players often deliberately deviate from the generally recognised laws, turning into a 'dense forest’ of unexplored variations, onto a narrow mountain path, where there is room for only one. Too many players now know very well not only the chess multiplication tables, but also chess logarithms, and therefore in order to achieve success, you sometimes have to try and demonstrate that two times two is five... It stands to reason that, with such play, which demands great physical and emotional intensity and enormous nervous output, the percentage of possible mistakes automatically increases. But such games afford everyone much greater pleasure..."

[Often given as "You must take your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5, and the path leading out is only wide enough for one."]

Full Devon Chess Calendar -- adult and junior