News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay

This article was first published 1 year ago  » Sports » Psychological drama thrills at Chess Worlds

Psychological drama thrills at Chess Worlds

April 21, 2023 19:18 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

IMAGE: Ian Nepomniachtchi of the International Chess Federation competes against China's Ding Liren at the FIDE World Championship Match 2023 - Game 8 in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Thursday, April 20. Photograph: Turar Kazangapov/Reuters

The play of chess grandmasters Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren, battling it out for the world title, has oscillated between touches of brilliance and uncharacteristic mistakes which their peers have attributed to flaws in their psychological stamina.

Grandmasters interviewed by Reuters described the world championship match, played in Astana, Kazakhstan as unpredictable and unusual with Nepomniachtchi leading 4.5-3.5 in the best-of-14 match.


"All my predictions have been proven wrong so I gave up and will watch as a spectator," said grandmaster Peter Svidler, the eight-times Russian champion.

"Everything that had seemed obvious to me has since been disproven."

Ding, who could become the first Chinese male to win the world title, began the tournament admitting he felt like there was "something wrong" with his mind.

He said he felt a "bit depressed" after his opening game tie with Nepomniachtchi, who has been blitzing some of his moves when Ding was under serious time pressure.

In the seventh game, Ding froze under time pressure, leaving himself less than three minutes to complete nine moves despite having been in a potentially winning position.

"He's a very high-level player," former world champion Alexander Khalifman said of Ding.

"But even before the match, I predicted that psychological strength was not his strongest attribute."

Grandmaster Georgui Castaneda said Ding projected the image of a "very emotional and vulnerable person", and that Nepomniachtchi had his own psychological flaws to overcome.

IMAGE: In his contest with Ding Liren, Ian Nepomniachtchi, however, has recovered from two defeats although he has never trailed. Photograph: Turar Kazangapov/Reuters

Khalifman, who has known Nepomniachtchi since he was a child, said the Russian's psychological disposition was similar to that of his Chinese opponent.

Nepomniachtchi collapsed when facing Norway's Magnus Carlsen, who opted not to defend his title after a 10-year reign, at the last edition of the tournament in 2021.

After five draws in the first five games, Nepomniachtchi lost game six, the longest in world championship history with 136 moves, over seven hours and 47 minutes. He never recovered.

"Nepo can find it hard to come back from a defeat," said Marie Sebag, the only French woman to reach grandmaster level.

In his contest with Ding, Nepomniachtchi, however, has recovered from two defeats although he has never trailed.

"This match is definitely more spectacular than we have seen in recent years," Svidler said.

"I would perhaps like there to be fewer mistakes, but in terms of drama and intrigue, it's difficult to wish for better."

Adding to the intrigue was Thursday's unearthing of two public accounts on the Lichess platform, which last month played the exact opening moves of Thursday's game eight.

"There's no doubt, this has to be Ding Liren and Richard Rapport's game. There's zero chance that these aren't their accounts," said famous streamer and world number five Hikaru Nakamura.

Ding has remained evasive on the subject.

Rapport, the world number 13, is one of Ding's seconds at this world championship and one of the most creative players in the world.

His input has been for everyone to see in the "Nepo v Ding" contest, with the Chinese grandmaster in game seven playing the French defence, which he had not played in a classical over-the-board game in 10 years.

The move left Nepomniachtchi -- and pundits -- wide-eyed with surprise.

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
© Copyright 2024 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

T20 World Cup

T20 World Cup