Pretoria News


The Match is over. Ding Liren (32) is the 17th World Chess Champion. After the 14 main games produced no winner, Ding won the fourth game of the Rapid play-off to take the title. If we expected a close and cautious match between players of virtually identical rating, what we got was a hard and dramatic fight. Nepo took the lead three times, in Games 2, 5 and 7. Ding equalized in the 4th, 6th and finally in the watershed 12th, which saw Nepo blunder horribly – and crumble visibly (his agony in the viral youtube clip is palpable).

Ding Liren – Ian Nepomniachtchi [Queen’s Pawn Game] 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 e3 c5 4 Nbd2 cxd4 5 exd4 Qc7 6 c3 Bd7 7 Bd3 Nc6 8 O-O Bg4 9 Re1 e6 10 Nf1 Bd6 11 Bg5 O-O (Black invites the opening of the g-file, intending to use it himself) 12 Bxf6 gxf6 13 Ng3 f5 14 h3 Bxf3 15 Qxf3 Ne7 16 Nh5 Kh8 17 g4 Rg8 18 Kh1 Ng6 19 Bc2 Nh4 20 Qe3 Rg6 21 Rg1 f4 22 Qd3 Qe7 23 Rae1 Qg5 (A point ahead in the match with promising attacking chances, happy voices must have been singing in Nepo’s head. Prematurely. White’s next took courage because it worsens his position but opening the log dark diagonal is the only hope for generating counterplay) 24 c4!? dxc4 25 Qc3 b5 26 a4 b4 27 Qxc4 Rag8? (This is wrong. 27 … Nf3! 28 Qc6 Nxe1 29 Qxa8+ Rg8 30 Qe4 Nxc2 31 Qxc2 Qh4 stays in control) 28 Qc6?! (28 Bxg6 now or next move was best, but complicating is White’s only chance) 28 … Bb8? (28 … Nf5! 29 Rd1 Qh4) 29 Qb7?! Rh6 30 Be4 Rf8 31 Qxb4 Qd8 32 Qc3 Ng6 33 Bg2

Qh4 34 Re2 f5??? (Probably the worst howler in World Championship history. What’s more, he had far more time on the clock than his opponent. Unpardonable, un-champion-like superficiality) 35 Rxe6 Rxh5 36 gxh5 Qxh5 37 d5+ Kg8 38 d6 1-0

If one could sympathise with Nepo’s transparent emotional meltdown at move 34, his body language at the press conference after losing the tie-break was immature and inexcusable. He looked like a spoilt brat who has been ticked off, sulking, slouching, resting his head on folded arms on the table while his opponent spoke. Are the days of tough champions with dignity and sportsmanlike grace in defeat dead and buried?

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Barely out of the opening White, to move, found a forced win here:





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