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Ding Liren becomes China’s first world chess champion

Ding Liren becomes China’s first world chess champion
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Sunday, 30 April, 2023, 18:18

Ding Liren became China’s first world chess champion on Sunday after a rapid-play tie-break victory over Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi in Kazakhstan.

Ding, 30, takes over as winner of the World Chess Championship from Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, who chose not to defend his title after a 10-year reign.

He and Nepomniachtchi had finished on seven points each after the 14 first-stage games played in the Kazakh capital Astana. Each won three, while the other eight ended in a draw.

For the tie-break stage of the match, also in Astana,. The contenders then played a tie-break round, in which they had only 25 minutes to make their moves, plus an additional 10 seconds for each move played.

Ding is rated higher than Nepomniachtchi in the faster formats of the game but had played very little such chess in official competitions since January 2020.

Carlsen, considered one of the greatest players of all time, had held the World Chess Championship title since 2013 and will remain the world’s top-rated player.

The two-million-euro ($2.2-million) prize would have been split 60-40 between the winner and the runner-up if the match had been decided in the initial 14-game series.

Because it reached the tiebreak stage, the prize money will be split 55-45.

No Chinese player had ever previously won the competition, in which men and women can compete.

But China has dominated women’s tournaments since the 1990s. Ju Wenjun is the reigning world champion in women’s chess and will face compatriot Lei Tingjie in July to defend her title.

Saturday’s game between Ding and Nepomniachtchi demonstrated once again that at this level chess is as much a question of nerves as it is a battle of minds.

Both players seemed to be feeling the pressure, making uncharacteristic mistakes in their play, while failing to take full advantage of the other’s errors.

Although Nepomniachtchi pushed hard to convert a slight advantage into a win, he finally had to settle for a draw in what was the longest game of the tournament: 90 moves played over more than six and a half hours.