Chess has a new World champion. Ding Liren of China ascended to the throne after defeating his Russian rival Ian Nepomniachtchi in the fourth rapid game of the first tie-breaker at Astana on Sunday.
Ding, however, may not quite be able to claim that he is the undisputed World champion.
For, this World championship cycle did not include Magnus Carlsen, the world’s best player, by some margin, and winner of the last five World championships. It was after Carlsen decided to withdraw from the World championship match, against Nepomniachtchi, that Ding got the opportunity.
The Chinese had finished runner-up, behind the Russian, in the Candidates tournament last year.
When Carlsen withdrew – for lack of motivation – the world chess governing body decided to conduct a World title match between the top two players at the Candidates, Nepomniachtchi and Ding, ranked second and third respectively in the world. The match, which got underway in the Kazakhstan capital on April 9, turned out to be a nail-biting affair.
After the opening game was drawn, it was Nepomniachtchi who drew first blood, winning the second. Now Ding had to do the catching up. He would do that in remarkable fashion in the remaining games. He equalised for one last time in the 12th game and the next two were drawn.
With the score tied at 7-7, the tie-breakers (rapid) had to be played. The first three games were drawn and Ding won the fourth. Now China holds the World title among both men and women (Ju Wenjun).
“I’m quite relieved,” said Ding. “The moment Ian resigned from the game it was very emotional. I could not control my mood and feelings. I know myself – I will cry and burst into tears…”
Nepomniachtchi regretted the chances he missed. “I guess I had every chance (to win),” he said. “So many promising positions… It’s always a lottery after 14 games of the match, so that’s it.”
Tiebreaker One had a match consisting of four rapid games with 25 minutes per side and a 10-second increment. The first three games were all draws.
The Russian started with 1.e4 in the fourth and final rapid game of the first tiebreaker and went for his favourite Ruy Lopez opening.
Ding took the pawn on a4 on the 11th move and started the exchange.
With everything at stake and no real advantage, Ding refused to draw the fourth game of 1st tiebreak and continued to press with less than 90 seconds on the board and eventually registered a decisive win which crowned him the championship.
Ding became the first male Chinese player to win the world championship. Ju Wenjun is the reigning world champion in women’s chess, which means China holds both the men’s and women’s world titles
CHECK OUT THE FULL BOARD FOR THE 4TH RAPID GAME OF TIEBREAK 1 OF THE WORLD CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP. BOARD COURTESY - CHESS.COM
TIEBREAK 1 RESULT
- GAME 1 - Draw
- GAME 2 - Draw
- GAME 3 - Draw
- GAME 4 - Ding Liren
7.0-7.0 AFTER 14 GAMES
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