FIDE Women's World Championship Match 2023 commences in Shanghai

The match for the title of the 18th Women's World Champion was officially opened in Shanghai. The drawing of lots determined that the challenger Lei Tingjie will start with the white pieces
The 2023 FIDE Women's World Championship Match kicked off today in Shanghai, where the first part of the match to determine the 18th women's world champion will take place.

In a refined ceremony in the grand ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel, the two players – defending world champion Ju Wenjun and challenger Lei Tingjie - got up on stage with FIDE officials to choose the colours they will start the match with.

The ceremony had two stages: first, there was a drawing of lots to determine who would have the first choice in the drawing of colours. Secondly, there was the actual process of determining the colours. The first to choose in the first draw was the current Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun who picked up a box containing a black knight. This meant that Lei Tingjie would be the first to choose the pieces. In the second phase, Lei chose first, and she picked a box with the white queen, which signified that she would begin the match with the white pieces.

The opening ceremony was preceded by a press conference, where the hosts and players expressed their views and expectations about the match.
Photo by Stev Bonhage
Tian Hongwei, General Secretary of the Chinese Chess Association, welcomed the chess world to China. Stressing the importance of the competition, Tian noted the contribution her country made to women's chess.

"This is the fourth time that two Chinese players compete for the Women's World Chess title after 2000, 2010 and 2018. This is enough to prove that the level of Chinese women's chess is at the top of the world, which is also the inevitable result of the popularization and development of Chinese chess," Tian said.

Dana Reizniece-Ozola, Deputy Chair of the FIDE Management Board and serving as the supervisor of the appeals committee for the match, expressed gratitude to the hosts for organizing the championship.
Photo by Stev Bonhage
Reizniece-Ozola noted the significance of the event as FIDE prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary: "It's a special moment for FIDE as next year we will be celebrating our 100th anniversary. The winner of this match will be the champion in a year where we mark our first centenary".

The FIDE official also praised Chinese achievements in women's chess, noting that out of 17 women's world chess champions so far, six come from China. She highlighted the systematic support provided by the Chinese government for chess – including the use of the game in education - and praised China's recent victories in the chess world, including Ding Liren's triumph in the world championship match earlier in the year.

Then it was time for the players to speak.

The challenger, Lei Tingjie, has proved to be one of the best players in the world. She qualified from the Grand Swiss Tournament held in 2019 and went on to win the Women's Candidates. As for Ju Wenjun, she is a role model not only for young girls and women but also for male chess players. She is among the six women in history who excelled the ELO of 2600 and has already defended her title twice.
Photo by Stev Bonhage
The defending World Champion Ju Wenjun expressed her enthusiasm for the match, anticipating an exciting three weeks of competition: "It will be exciting and a lot of fighting spirit for the next three weeks. I feel I will do my best, also because of my love for chess. I will do everything to fight and win every game".

For Ju, this is her third championship match. When asked if this dual is any different from the previous ones, she said: "Every match is very important and tells its own story. I will consider this as a new match and will do my best… I will do everything to fight and win every game".

Lei Tingjie seemed relaxed ahead of the match, despite being one of the youngest challengers ever (at the age of 26): "I want to win, but I am here to improve myself. I will try my best to play good chess. I am the challenger so I don't feel any pressure at all".

"I have a good team, and things are going well. My mood is good, I am happy to be here and ready to fight," Lei added.
Photo by Stev Bonhage
The two players who are at the top of the Chinese and world chess know each other well for years.

"I learnt a lot about chess from Ju. She is one of the top players in the world, and I have been following her games closely", Lei said.

"First time I met Lei, she was a kid. She is an excellent chess player, especially taking into account her young age", the defending champion Ju Wenjun noted.

For the next three weeks, the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Chongqing will play host to the Women's World Championship match. As both of the contenders come from China, it was decided that their native cities host the event: the first part of the match will take place in Shanghai, the home city of defending champion Wy Wenjun while the second part will take place in Chongqing, where the challenger Lei Tingjie is from.

Officials from both cities were present at the event and stressed their support in promoting the match. Shanghai plans to hold a series of events to promote chess, including grandmasters going out and playing chess with the public.
Photo by Stev Bonhage
Shanghai's official Shan Xiali pointed out the rich history of chess in the city, also known as the "Paris of the East": "The relationship between Shanghai and chess has a long history. Shanghai is an early city in China to promote chess. The city also has a good chess mass base and cultural atmosphere, and many excellent chess players are from Shanghai".

As the women's world chess caravan will move to the central Chinese city of Chongqing from the 14th of July, the authorities there have noted they have done four rounds of meticulous training for their staff to make this "the best sports event ever".
Photo by Stev Bonhage
The FIDE Women's World Championship Match 2023 is anticipated to be an intense battle between Lei Tingjie and Ju Wenjun, showcasing their exceptional skills and determination.

The first round of the match will be held on Wednesday, the 5th of July, at 3 PM local time in Shanghai (GMT+8).