Game 10: Risk vs. Reward

“Avoid euphoria: draw after a loss, also draw after a win”
—Tigran Petrosian

After decisive Games 8 and 9, with just three games left in the Match, what could we expect to see today? Despite a heartbreaking loss in Game 9, should we still consider Aleksandra Goryachkina to be the favorite? After all, she had two games left with White, compared to Ju Wenjun's one. Would the Russian player's lack of experience in such high profile matches become a factor? Will Goryachkina attempt to take back what she felt was hers in the previous game?


The game began in an auspicious manner for Goryachkina, as players mirrored a Ganguly – L'Ami game that was played just yesterday at Wijk aan Zee. Goryachkina's (playing white) first opportunity to question Ju's preparation came on move 21. She could have played the natural Re5!, forcing black to play 22...f6, weakening the bishop on g6, and setting up dangerous play along the g file for her rook. Instead, Goryachkina played a more pedestrian 21. Re3. It looked all but certain that the game was heading for a short draw, with players struggling to find sensible moves to reach the required 40-move minimum.

What happened to Goryachkina next had more to do with sports psychology than with sound chess. Starting around move 25, the game was a dead draw—a result she could have forced at any point all through the first time control. Instead, she made moves like 26. b5 and 38. Bd5, probing for an advantage that was simply not there.


She did not appear to realize that she needed to be more careful and the position was not as one-sided in her previous games with White. At the press conference, Goryachkina admitted that she “blundered” 42...Be6 that in itself is still fine for White, but while algorithms continued to show zeros, the position suddenly becomes unpleasant to defend, especially against such a fine technical player as is Ju. By move 50, Goryachkina had to be extremely precise, something she was not able to keep up with in the approaching time trouble. She collapsed with 53. Kb4??, but by that time it was clear that she wasn't able to walk the necessary tightrope to make a draw. Ju won is now one point away from retaining her title.

Was it her lack of match experience? Was it Goryachkina's well-documented stubbornness that her coaching team couldn't overcome? Tomorrow's day off could not have come sooner for Goryachkina. Does she have it in her to get herself together and pull out a miracle come back in the last two rounds? We will find out this week.


Oleg Gumenyuk, mayor of Vladivostok, and Alexander Verkhovsky, Chairperson of the Board of directors of the main sponsor for Gidrostroy (the Vladivostok leg of the match), made the first symbolic move of Game 10.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is a rest day. Play will be resumed on Wednesday 22. The 11th game will begin at 15:30 local time.


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