First Chinese world chess champion crowned

Lazy eyes listen


On Sunday, Chinese grandmaster Ding Liren defeated Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi in a tiebreak to win what has been dubbed “the most exciting world chess championship match in a generation.”

After 14 torturous classical games, the final of which clocked in at six and a half hours on Saturday, the play turned to a sequence of four shorter games to break the tie. If no winner was found, a series of two ‘blitz’ games would have been played.

The first three games were all drawn, with neither player able to generate substantial winning chances. Ding, on the other hand, managed to gain the initiative with the black pieces in game four. But Nepomniachtchi fought back, and double-edged play ensued, with the Russian passing up a chance to steer the game to a clear draw and thus a final ‘blitz’ tiebreak.

When nothing materialized for Nepomniachtchi, it appeared that he chose a perpetual check line, a technique in which a player repeats a series of checks on the opponent’s king but without making any progress.

With fewer than two minutes remaining and a world title on the line, Ding declined the repetition and made an unexpected and gutsy move that pinned his own rook to his king, denying his opponent more checks. Ding performed with razor-sharp precision, pushing his pieces while denying Nepomniachtchi counterplay with two passed pawns as recompense for a less safe king.

After Ding successfully blocked Nepomniachtchi’s final desperate shot, the Russian extended his hand in resignation. Ding, overcome with emotion, was unable to rise from the board.