International Chess Federation


History of the Women's World Chess Championship
From 1927 to the present day.
The International Chess Federation (FIDE) established the Women's World Chess Championship in 1927 as a tournament to determine the world's best female chess player.

The first championships were all-play-all tournaments held concurrently with Chess Olympiads. From 1927 to 1939, one player dominated them all: British-Czechoslovak-Russian Vera Menchik. She won the first Women's World Championship and successfully defended her title six times in every tournament held during her life. Menchik lost only one game, tied four, and won 78. Twice, in 1934 and 1937, German player Sonja Graf challenged Menchik to a championship match to defend her title, which Menchik did. She died during a bombing raid on her home in England in 1944 as the reigning world champion.
Because of World War II, Women's World Championship was on hiatus for ten years, till 1949. The Eighth Championship was held in Moscow, and so started the era of dominance of Soviet players. Lyudmila Rudenko won the round-robin tournament then.

Starting in 1952 FIDE introduced the Candidates Tournament instead of the all-play-all tournaments to determine a challenger who would then face the defending champion in a match for the title.

At the fourth Candidates Tournament in 1961 a new leader emerged—Nona Gaprindashvili from Georgia in the USSR, who won with ten wins, zero losses, and six draws. The following year she became the sixth women's world chess champion and she defended her title till 1978. Gaprindashvili became the first woman to be awarded the title Grandmaster.

In 1978, another Georgian, 17-year old Maia Chiburdanidze defeated Gaprindashvili by 8.5 to 6.5. She defended the title four times, till 1991. Chiburdanidze became the second woman-Grandmaster.
The post-Soviet era and the dominance of Chinese players began in 1991, when Xie Jun won the title by defeating Chiburdanidze by 8.5 to 6.5. Xie, the current president of the Chinese Chess Association, was the world champion from 1991 to 1996 and again from 1999 to 2001.
Beginning in 2001, 64-player knockout tournament was introduced.
In 2008, the title went to the Russian Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk, who, in the final, beat Chinese prodigy Hou Yifan by 2.5 to 1.5. Hou was 14 years old at the time, but this was her second championship—she became the youngest player ever to participate in the tournament two years earlier.
In 2010 Hou Yifan became the youngest Women's World Champion. She won the next three championships in which the title was decided by a match (2011, 2013, 2016) with ten wins, zero losses, and 14 draws. To this day, Hou is the No. 1 ranked woman player in the world.
Since 2010, the Women's Championship has been held every year in two alternating formats: 64-player knockout tournament and a match between the champion against a challenger. The challenger was determined through a Grand Prix series of six tournaments.

In 2019, FIDE reintroduced the Candidates Tournament—an eight player double round-robin tournament—to determine the challenger. The Championship format was set to a match, as well.
The 2020 Women's World Championship, held in Shanghai, China, and Vladivostok, Russia, from January 3 to 26, is a 12-rounds match between Ju Wenjun—the winner of the 2018 knockout championship—and her challenger, Aleksandra Goryachkina, the winner of 2019 Candidates Tournament.