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First Chinese world chess champion crowned

Ding Liren news

A rollercoaster match ended with Ding Liren winning the title.

Chinese grandmaster Ding Liren prevailed over Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi on Sunday in a tiebreak to win what has been hailed as perhaps the most exciting world chess championship match in a generation.

With the score deadlocked at a 7-7 tie after 14 grueling classical games – the final of which on Saturday clocked in at six and a half hours – the action shifted to a series of four shorter games to break the tie. Had a winner still not emerged, a series of two ‘blitz’ games would have ensued.

The first three games ended in a draw, with neither player able to muster significant winning chances. In game four, however, Ding managed to seize the initiative with the black pieces. But Nepomniachtchi fought back and double-edged play followed, with the Russian eschewing an opportunity to steer the game toward a clear draw and thus a final ‘blitz’ tiebreak.

When nothing subsequently materialized for Nepomniachtchi, he appeared to choose a perpetual check line, a technique whereby a player repeats a series of checks on the opponent’s king but without being able to make any progress.

With less than two minutes on his clock and a world title on the line, Ding declined the repetition and played an unexpected and brave move that pinned his own rook to his king – but in doing so deprived his opponent of further checks. With two passed pawns as compensation for a less safe king, Ding played with razor-sharp precision and managed to push his pawns while denying Nepomniachtchi counterplay.

After Ding successfully parried one final shot of desperation from Nepomniachtchi, the Russian extended his hand in resignation. A stunned Ding, overcome with emotion, was unable to stand up from the board.

Ding’s journey to becoming China’s first-ever world chess champion and the first new title holder since 2013 was a most improbable one. He only qualified for the Candidates Tournament, the round-robin that determines who takes on the defending champion, after Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin was removed. However, because pandemic restrictions in China had left him short of the required number of rated games, he was forced to embark on a punishing schedule of tournaments hastily arranged by the Chinese Chess Federation.

In the Candidates Tournament, meanwhile, Ding finished second – to Nepomniachtchi – and was only catapulted into the championship match when five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen opted not to defend his title.

The absence of Carlsen, who has dominated professional chess for the last decade, was initially seen as diminishing the stature of the match. However, as Ding and Nepomniachtchi traded blow for blow and thrilled viewers with tense and topsy-turvy games, the encounter was increasingly seen as what former world champion Viswanathan Anand called “a match for the ages.”

Nepomniachtchi, who was making his second straight appearance in the world title match after squaring off with Carlsen in Dubai in 2021, saw his bid to join a long list of Soviet and Russian world champions fall agonizingly short. Ding will pocket €1.2 million (more than $1.3 million) for prevailing in the match, while Nepomniachtchi, as runner-up, will take home €800,000.

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Source:RT News

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