Game 8: Goryachkina scores a crucial victory

Aleksandra Goryachkina wins the 8th game and leads the Women's World Chess Championship by one point: 4½-3½. The World Champion Ju Wenjun only has four games left to overturn the score and retain her title.

Regardless of the outcome, it has become increasingly clear that Goryachkina is punching above her rating. In this match, she has demonstrated grit, patience, and perseverance of a +2600 player. Will it be enough to become the next World Champion?

In today's Queen's Gambit, Ju Wenjun (playing Black) opted for an unorthodox 8...Ne4. A quick engine search showed that White scored 71% in over 70 games played. It is unclear why Ju went for this line. At the press conference, Ju admitted that after 17.dxc5 she felt that the game was getting out of hand and she struggled to come up with an equalizing plan.

Goryachkina continued to push, while black seemed to always go for safer, more passive options when presented with an option to either play intuitively or defend. A good example of this was 25... Qg7, protecting a dead-weight h pawn, instead of a much more dynamic and intuitive Nd7 — a reflection of how Ju has played this match. Just like in almost every game of this Match, Ju makes the same decision around move 30: Instead of going with her intuition and going for a more dynamic continuation, she chooses a safer option.

Presented with a golden opportunity, Goryachkina played extremely accurately. She was not perfect: 32.b5! would have ended the game on the spot, before the time control. Nevertheless, 32.Be4 was good enough and Aleksandra was still winning. Goryachkina felt that after 37.e6 this was a game she was not going to let go.

The next game is a test for Goryachkina. For the first time in the match, she is now the hunted. The pray. Suddenly, this is her World Championship to lose. In a huge psychological shift, we'll now see what Goryachkina is truly made of. Will she be nervous? How will today's result impact her opening preparation? What about Ju? Does she have it in her to play winning chess? A player known for aggressive, tactical brilliance, how will she react to being four games away from losing her title?

Game 9 is Sunday, January 19, at 15:30 local time.


Ye Jiangchuan, President of the Chinese Chess Association and FIDE Vice-President, together with Efim Zvenyatsky, Art Director of the Gorky Drama Theatre made the first symbolic move of Game 8.


Former World Champion Hou Yifan joined Nigel Short. She will be a co-commentator for the remaining games of the match.


Goryachkina always follows the same ritual, setting up the pieces after the game is over - regardless of the result.

Text: Michael Friedman
Photos: Michael Friedman and Eteri Kublashvili
Photos in high resolution are available for the press at our official Flickr account.