The World Championship is Boring!

I have heard this argument from numerous chess fans over the years.  The current format of the world championship is “boring” because “everyone knows” that the players will just “play for draws.”

These discussions always devolve into some sort of “How can the players be made to play more interesting chess?” discussions.

Simultaneously with that there are discussions about women’s chess.  How “everyone knows” that “those games just aren’t as good” etc.

Ten days ago the Women’s world championship began in Shanghai.  I felt like I was one of maybe 1% of chess fans who knew this match was taking place or cared about it.

Then I see my friend Sabina tweet this.

And she’s absolutely right.  Because truth be told, the handful of discussions I have seen about this match have mostly been “box score” style tweets/posts/etc. pointing out the results of the most recent game.

Sadly, some of the discussions I have seen have focused solely on the ratings of the players, with one person saying that “This match is getting exactly the attention you would expect in a contest between the 399th and 732nd ranked players in the world.”

Here’s the problem with all of this…

First, this is a world championship.  Therefore, by definition it matters.

Next, if someone is going to complain that the World Championship match between Carlsen and Karjakin was boring because there were too many draws then perhaps they should open their eyes and look at this match.  In the seven games completed so far there have been two draws.  Two.

(above graphic from www.theweekinchess.com)

The quality of the games has been good.

Game One saw a long attempt at pressing an ending that fizzled out into a draw.

Game Two seen Ju sac a pawn for great initiative that she smashes through and converts.  I suspect that the pgn file for this game is wrong since 56…Rc1+ wins easily.  It’s hard to believe that Ju missed this and that Tan would then miss the draw after 57.Rxd1.

In Game Three Ju took a 2-0 lead in the match with an absolute crush.  Tan played 14…g5 which seems quite silly with the king in the center and no real way to bring pressure on White’s kingside.

Down two games, the World Champion strikes back.  After a relatively unambitious opening (some sort of Torre/Colle thing…don’t ask me, I’m not an openings expert!) Tan gets a little pressure building on the kingside when Ju overextends herself.  Tan first cracks open the kingside and then finishes the game off with a beautiful queen sac.

In the last game to the played in Shanghai (the match is split with the first five games in Shanghai and the final five in Chongqing) the champion decides to again attempt an unambitious opening (this time the Bishop’s Opening) but the challenger again moves her lead out to two points at 3-1 by first building up a strong center and then showing some excellent technique in converting it.

In the first game in Chongqing the champion again brings home the full point, this time in a 125 move marathon.  Pay attention to the beautiful idea with 26…c4.  I like how Tan gets rid of her own potential backwards c pawn target in a way that forces Ju to either cripple her own structure to “win” the pawn which she will likely lose back eventually and then be faced with a dangerous looking queenside majority or to play as she did and simply give back the pawn immediately.

Now Tan has left Ju without a target and at the same time forced her to air out her king a little bit.

After then winning a pawn and getting rooks off the board Tan shows why she’s a champion by patiently converting a queen ending.

Game Seven was a draw that never really got off the ground too much.  I would imagine the players were exhausted after the Game Six battle.

So there you have it.  A match which has been anything but boring that seems likely to conclude in a quite exciting finish!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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