After a dramatic tiebreak, the Chinese Numero Uno, by winning the fourth Rapid game, became World Champion.
Check our videos below.
Recap video for Game 14 and Tiebreaks, by GM Miguel Illescas:
Recap video for Games 12 and 13, by GM Miguel Illescas:
Recap video for Games 10 and 11, by GM Miguel Illescas:
Recap video for Games 8 and 9, by GM Miguel Illescas:
Recap video for Game 7, by GM Miguel Illescas:
Recap video for games 5 and 6, by GM Miguel Illescas:
Recap Video for games 3 and 4, by GM Alex Yermolinsky:
Recap Video for games 1 and 2, by GM Alex Yermolinsky:
The Capitol City of Kazakhstan has been renamed back to Astana from Nur-Sultan, having removed the name of its former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled the country for 27 years, but fell out of favor after the events of January 2022. If you think it is not confusing enough, I'll also mention that “Astana” literally means “Capitol City”in Kazakh.
Perhaps, we shouldn't care at all for internal politics of this remote country that boasts one of the lowest population densities in the world. Importantly, Kazakhstan has a chess tradition going back to the Soviet days, and some rich people willing to support chess at times when sponsors are difficult to find.
In December last year, Kazakhstan's largest and most famous city, Almaty, hosted World Rapid and Blitz Championships to generally positive reviews. Accommodating near 300 players across both Men's and Women's events certainly was not an easy task, particularly on short notice.
So, it didn't come as a shock when the news came about Astana hosting the World Championship match between Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia and Ding Liren of China. Geographically, it makes perfect sense, as Astana lies about halfway through between Moscow and Beijing, and weather-wise it isn't that much different from their hometowns. Politically speaking, after Russia has been accepted to Asian Chess Federation, it makes perfect sense to have two Asian players contesting the title in Asia.
The first time World Chess Championship took place in Asia was back in 1993 when the second half of the Karpov-Timman match was held in Jakarta. Ironically, 30 years later, in 2023, we are again looking at a FIDE World Championship match missing a defending Champion and number 1 rated player. Just like Kasparov before him, Magnus Carlsen finally got tired of playing a good FIDE boy, who is supposed to be back there every two years to “defend his title”, which to him seems more like putting up the 20% of the prize fund to FIDE coffers.
So, Carlsen is out of the World Championship juggernaut, and he's free to do whatever he wants, which happens to be various forms of online fast time control chess. His Meltwater series, along with Chess.com Speed Championship and League events, provides a round-the-year slate of lucrative tournaments for the chess elite. I suspect it's not only Carlsen who has had it with classical chess, especially as it's run by FIDE, but the entire circle of his colleagues and competitors for the past 10 years feels the same. Why bother with hotels and airports when you can ply your trade from the comfort of your home?
Where does this whole thing leave the World Championship match that is about to begin? First off, sans Carlsen, it still features World's # 2 and #3. Both Ian and Ding appear to be at the peak of their powers, and it's not their fault that whoever prevails in their match would have the asterisk attached to his title. Again, we have a precedent for that: when Fischer didn't show up to play in 1975, Karpov got the moniker of “Paper Champion” attached to his title. It didn't stick around for long, though. Anatoly's track record of winning nearly every tournament he played in spoke for itself.
Who's going to organize tournaments for a new World Champion to grace with his presence is another question. In that respect, the chess world is on a much shakier ground now, compared to previous turmoils of 1975 or 1993. It is not about one stubborn individual who happens to be the best player at the moment, but he “wouldn't play ball” or “be part of the team” or whatever the current corporate-speak term is. Things are quite a bit more serious, as certain big-time political shifts have begun to affect daily lives of millions of people, chess players included.
Suddenly, there are borders to be crossed and local laws to be respected. The Russian players, who already are not allowed to participate under the flag of their country, are facing difficulty traveling to Western Europe and the USA. The Grand Chess Tour has Ian Nepomniachtchi listed among the 2023 players, but I'm not convinced Ian will be playing in St. Louis this year, Romania, Poland and Croatia, maybe. The same goes the other way around. These days I can hardly imagine a Tal Memorial being held in Moscow and graced with participation of Carlsen, Caruana and Nakamura.The travel alone would be a nightmare.
On the Chinese side, one can never tell when COVID decides to go another round. The whole country can lock up anytime, hardly an encouraging situation for a chess boom that could follow their countryman's achieving the ultimate goal.
Having said all the above, I yet don't expect the challengers for the World title to slack off. This, I believe, will be a tightly contested match, with the winner emerging by the smallest of margins.
Let's now see what the participants will bring to the stage, and I will begin with Nepomniachtchi.
Photo by Eleri Kublashvili), http://ruchess.ru/
Ian is the same age as Carlsen, and they competed as top players in age-restricted World Youth Championships, but then their careers diverged. While Carlsen kept on improving and reached Number One in the rating list before the age of 20, Nepo languished in relative obscurity, alternating good results with mediocre ones. Perhaps, his well-publicized commitment to computer games was a distraction. By his own admission, when in his late 20s, Ian realized his reflexes slowed down, and he could no longer compete with teenagers in Dota. The winner was the chess world. Since about 2017, Nepo firmly established himself as Russia's Number One, replacing former World Championship challenger Sergey Karjakin and eventually earning his own shot at the title. The first try turned out to be a dud, as Ian absolutely fell to pieces after losing Game 6. It took Carlsen only 11 games out of 14 scheduled to reach 7.5 points.
An epic collapse at the highest stage, but Nepo didn't get discouraged, and the next year he became a rare repeat victor of a Candidate Tournament , with one round to spare and finishing with the highest-ever score of +5 (9.5/14) in the modern era. This outstanding performance showed a marked improvement in Ian's qualities as a competitor. He won the games when chances presented themselves and kept his emotions in check throughout the event.
Photo by Vladimir Barskij - http://ruchess.ru/
Ding Liren's road to qualification had some twists and turns. He didn't make the original list of the eight participants, and only Karjakin's ban from international chess opened a door for the Chinese star. Famously he had to play three tournaments in a row to make up 26 rated games in time for a FIDE deadline. Arguably, Ding played his best chess in these tournaments, raking up a ton of rating points in the process. Probably it was the combination of the comfort of playing in China (these jet lags are no joke) and facing a familiar opposition.
Ding's good form didn't hold up to the start of the Candidates. In the very first round in Madrid, he played a strangely indifferent game against Nepo and lost with White. It took him until Round 9 to finally even his score, followed by a roller coaster of wins and losses. The very last game, a win against Hikaru Nakamura, proved to be critical: Ding snatched a second-place finish and punched his ticket to the big show.
It's common for the World Championship match participants not to play a whole lot in the run-up. Both Ian and Ding played just one tournament this year. First, it was Ding's turn to warm up at Tata Steel, and it didn't go well. An 11th-place finish with three losses was not a great showing for a man who once went a whole 100 games undefeated.
It appears that Ding's trademark defenses against 1.e4 are holding up just fine. It's his uneven play with White that has been a problem. 16 losses in 14 months is a lot.
Nepo's last tune-up, at a new Dusseldorf tournament, was significantly more encouraging. After six draws that failed to impress, Ian showed his toughness by grinding down the tournament leader Aronian, and home favorite Keymer, both with Black. A good sign before the match, where things bound to go wrong at some time and where extra effort will be required.
Article by GM Alex Yermolinsky
The first game of the match starts on Sunday, April the 9th, at 5 AM EDT, 11:00 Central Europe, 15:00 Astana, 9:00 UTC.
Here is the Schedule:
|Friday, 7 April||Opening ceremony|
|Saturday, 8 April||Media day|
|Sunday, 9 April||Game 1|
|Monday, 10 April||Game 2|
|Tuesday, 11 April||Rest day|
|Wednesday, 12 April||Game 3|
|Thursday, 13 April||Game 4|
|Friday, 14 April||Rest day|
|Saturday, 15 April||Game 5|
|Sunday, 16 April||Game 6|
|Monday, 17 April||Rest day|
|Tuesday, 18 April||Game 7|
|Wednesday, 19 April||Rest day|
|Thursday, 20 April||Game 8|
|Friday, 21 April||Game 9|
|Saturday, 22 April||Rest day|
|Sunday, 23 April||Game 10|
|Monday, 24 April||Game 11|
|Tuesday, 25 April||Rest day|
|Wednesday, 26 April||Game 12|
|Thursday, 27 April||Game 13|
|Friday, 28 April||Rest day|
|Saturday, 29 April||Game 14|
|Sunday, 30 April||Tiebreaks|
|Monday, 1 May||Closing ceremony|
FIDE REGULATIONS for the Match: https://handbook.fide.com/files/handbook/FWCM2023.pdf
ICC will relay the games LIVE on its platform.
GM Alex Yermolinsky and GM Miguel Illescas will publish video recaps in the rest days.
ICC will publish an article every day after the game, with the moves in PGN format that you can download.