Many decades ago, Botvinnik expressed the curious thought that one of Spassky’s psychological Handicaps against Fischer in 1972 had been playing the match with a big prize fund in western currency. Indeed, all the post war world title matches had been disputed between Soviet players, with relatively modest prizes in rubles.
This surely sounds like a “communist” comment. In fact, even if real, the handicap must have been mutual, as Fischer had never before played for such a big amount of money. Besides, this could have well stimulated both players to give their best during the match.
And yet, the course of the current women World Championship makes me think that Botvinnik’s comment might have had some truth in it, if we refer at this kind of situation in general. The match between the reigning champion Ju Wenjun and her challenger Goryachkina has an unprecedentedly high (for women chess) prize fund and it may be more than a coincidence that the general level of play was much lower than expected from two well prepared players rated close to 2600.
I have noticed that Goryachkina’s main symptom has been the improper handling of the simplifying phase. As explained in the article Hidden aspects of the art of simplifying the position, exchanging pieces means a lot more than just removing the pieces from the board. One should aim at simplifying from a position of force or prevent the opponent from doing it. Ju Wenjun mainly “sinned” in the endgame but he didn’t remain untouched by Goryachkina’s apparently contagious symptom, either.
I can only hope that during the rapid and blitz games the players will rid themselves of inhibitions and play their best chess.