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    Entries in Ding Liren (36)

    Saturday
    Jun022018

    Norway Chess, Rounds 3-5: Carlsen Leads, Ding Withdraws

    It was a tough break for Ding Liren - literally - when he had a bicycle accident while riding with his father during the free day after round three. He fractured his hip and had to withdraw. That's very unfortunate for him, and I'm sure we're all united in wishing him a full and speedy recovery. Fortunately for the tournament standings, he had drawn all three of his games, so from a fairness perspective the effect of his withdrawal will be minimal.

    To the chess. We left off after round 2; in round 3, as in round 1, Magnus Carlsen was the sole winner. (All the round 2 games were drawn, so Carlsen was also the sole winner in the entire tournament through three rounds.) He defeated Levon Aronian in a 5.Re1 Anti-Berlin, a variation that's often tragically dull. This time the play was more interesting, and while Aronian's time trouble blunder on move 27 sped things up Carlsen already enjoyed the upper hand. All four of the draws were very interesting, and some of the players were under pressure, but no one missed any wins on the way to the peaceful outcome.

    Then came the rest day, which worked out well for most of the players - though not for Ding, as mentioned already, although he and Viswanathan Anand took first in, of all things, a cooking competition for the players.

    In round 4, it was the day of the Gruenfeld - or rather, the day to beat the Gruenfeld, as Sergey Karjakin defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov on the white side of Classical lines. Aronian thereby returned to 50%, while Karjakin went to +1. Hikaru Nakamura didn't get anything with White against Magnus Carlsen, and they drew quickly, while Viswanathan Anand and Wesley So played a game that was probably in both players' computers beforehand.

    Finally, in round 5, gravity took over as Fabiano Caruana beat Karjakin, bringing them both to 50% from opposite directions. The other three games were more or less mutually comfortable draws, so the standings at the moment see Carlsen at +2, Mamedyarov and MVL at -1, and the other six players (or seven, counting Ding) are on 50%. Here are the pairings for round 6:

    • So (2/4) - Carlsen (3.5/5)
    • Aronian (2.5/5) - Caruana (2/4)
    • Nakamura (2/4) - Vachier-Lagrave (1.5/4)
    • Anand (2/4) - Mamedyarov (2/5)
    • Karjakin (2.5/5) has the bye.

    Tournament site here, games (with comments to three of the decisive games) here.

    Monday
    Mar262018

    2018 Candidates, Round 13: Caruana Regains the Clear Lead

    Perhaps the rest day helped, or maybe it was good preparation. Or, maybe it's that Fabiano Caruana's opponent, Levon Aronian, is so out of form at the moment that it was enough for Caruana to play a decent game to obtain good winning chances. Whatever story we invent in all of its ex post facto glory, the facts are that Caruana rebounded from his painful loss to Sergey Karjakin on Saturday with an almost entirely clean and convincing victory over Aronian today. Since Karjakin was only able to draw his game against Wesley So, Caruana is in clear first, half a point ahead of both So and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who was given a massive present by Alexander Grischuk. Ding Liren is a full point behind after a lucky draw against Vladimir Kramnik. Amazingly, he's not yet mathematically eliminated from the race for first. But more about this below.

    First then, Caruana's win over Aronian. Caruana repeated the Anti-Marshall line 8.d3 d6 9.Bd2 played by Grischuk (also against Aronian) in the previous round. Aronian varied first, but it looked like either Caruana's preparation or just his feel for the position was better than his opponent's, and soon he was outplaying the great Armenian. On the verge of getting rolled up, Aronian made a good practical decision to sacrifice a piece. It shouldn't have worked, but Caruana's 29.N1e3?? needlessly endangered the win. (I recognize that the double question mark is pretty harsh; I defend that evaluation in the game file.) The problem wasn't easy to spot, however, and once Aronian missed his chance Caruana finished most convincingly.

    As for Karjakin, he never had a chance. When So has White and is determined to be solid, it's almost impossible to get a position where one can play for a win. Magnus Carlsen has managed to do it against him, but that's about it. Besides, Karjakin's classical style doesn't help much either when it comes to must-win situations with Black. He did try to get a sharp line against So's 4.Qc2 anti-Nimzo-Indian line, but So kept it safe and the draw was never in doubt.

    Meanwhile, Mamedyarov joined Karjakin in second. His game with Grischuk also looked like an inevitable draw, and had looked that way for a long time. Mamedyarov did just enough to keep the game from becoming a dead draw, and finally at move 34 Grischuk had to find the right move. He thought he had found a way to achieve an instant draw, but White's reply proved otherwise. Grischuk was tied with Mamedyarov entering the round, so if he had won he'd have had a shot. Not any longer.

    Finally, Kramnik showed how to play for a win with Black, and up until his 30th move had played a great game. Ding would have been lost after 30...Rxe7, and even after 32..Kg7 (or 32...Kh7) Kramnik probably would have won thanks to White's weak king. Instead, Kramnik allowed White to trade queens, and then his king wasn't an issue. The resulting ending was only a little better for Black, and Ding held the draw without much trouble.

    Caruana has 8 out of 13, Mamedyarov and Grischuk have 7.5, and Ding has 7. This site (HT: Chuckles) offers the odds of tournament success for each of the four, and (sacrificing a few decimal places) they are:

    • Caruana: 56.4%
    • Mamedyarov: 20.9%
    • Karjakin: 20.7%
    • Ding: 2%

    The site's author has more information and an explanation of his method, so you're encouraged to check out the full details there.

    Rapping things up over here...the games (with my notes) are here; and the final pairings, to determine the identity of Carlsen's challenger this coming November, are:

    • Grischuk (6.5) - Caruana (8)
    • Aronian (4) - So (5.5)
    • Karjakin (7.5) - Ding (7)
    • Kramnik (6) - Mamedyarov (7.5)

    Saturday
    Mar242018

    2018 Candidates, Round 12: The Tournament gets Karjaked

    Yes, it's a bad pun, and yes, I know the "j" in Sergey Karjakin's name is pronounced like a "y". I'm sticking to the dumb pun anyway. Who'd have thought that Karjakin, -2 after four rounds, would lead the tournament eight rounds later? What's that, you say, he's only tied for first? Incorrect. By beating "co-leader" Fabiano Caruana, Karjakin has the better tiebreaks, and given the tournament rules it means he would win the event if it finished right now. (Just as Magnus Carlsen advanced and Vladimir Kramnik didn't when they finished London 2013 with the same number of points.)

    Amazing. Karjakin has won four games in seven rounds, going from worst to first, and for the moment he has the pole position for a second straight title tilt with Magnus Carlsen. With White against Caruana and the latter's Petroff, Karjakin avoided nonsense like 5.Qe2 and went for the main lines, choosing 5.Nc3. After 10.a3 and 11.Nd4 there was a new position on the board, and it seems that he obtained an advantage. The critical idea that probably won him the game, and possibly a second shot at the title, was 17.Bxd5, sacrificing the exchange for a pawn and a nuclear bishop on d5, radiating power in every direction. Caruana didn't manage to cope with this piece, and by the time Karjakin picked up a second pawn for the exchange on move 31 Black's position was hopeless.

    Caruana's loss could have been Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's gain. Like Caruana, he had been undefeated all tournament long and had been in first or just half a point behind for a long time. Had he won with White against Ding Liren, he'd have been in sole first. Even a draw would have been acceptable: he'd have been in a three-way tie for first, and then he'd have been ahead on tiebreaks given his plus score against Karjakin and even record vs. Caruana. If, if, if. Ding didn't lose, and despite drawing all 11 of his games up to this point he didn't split the point either. Instead, he won, and now he's even with Mamedyarov, half a point behind the leaders.

    Ding took a page out of Kramnik's book (why not? Everyone else copies his openings) and played the Semi-Tarrasch. He equalized, and when Mamedyarov pushed to create a kingside attack Ding was able to push his queenside majority, make a second queen, and win.

    So four players lead or are within half a point of the lead. Did I say four? Make it five: we shouldn't forget Alexander Grischuk. If had defeated Levon Aronian he'd have been in the tie for first. He had a big chance on move 23, but rejected it for some reason and Aronian escaped with a draw. Still, Grischuk is within half a point of Karjakin and Caruana, so with two rounds to go more than half of the field still has a great shot at winning the tournament.

    The last game featured two players who are out of the running. Vladimir Kramnik had a winning advantage against Wesley So, but for the umpteenth time in the event left half a point (or more) on the table, and the game finished in a draw.

    The games (with my notes) are here. Sunday is a rest day, and the penultimate round will be played on Monday, with these pairings:

     

    • Mamedyarov (6.5) - Grischuk (6.5)
    • Ding Liren (6.5) - Kramnik (5.5)
    • So (5) - Karjakin (7)
    • Caruana (7) - Aronian (4)

     

    Tuesday
    Nov142017

    2017 Champions Showdown, Day 6: Carlsen Finishes off Ding Liren **UPDATED**

    The match had already been clinched, but it was necessary to play today's five-minute games as well. The wins-to-losses ratio was exactly the same as yesterday: Magnus Carlsen won six games and lost one, drawing the rest; the difference is that four more games were played today, which means that instead of only one draw today's action saw five of them.

    Oddly, after the first ten games (of twelve) today, Carlsen hadn't won a single one with the white pieces, while for Ding Liren the white pieces were even worse: he didn't score so much as a single draw. Finally both players' streaks came to an end in the last two games: Carlsen won game 11 with White and Ding drew game 12 in his last White game to finish off the match on a comparatively high note.

    Carlsen thus won today's action 17-7 (on the day's 2-1-0 scoring) and the match by a hefty 67-25 score. His play wasn't as impressive today - it was clear that they were playing five-minute chess and not "real" chess, and with the match already decided and no rating points on the line Carlsen's motivation probably declined at least somewhat compared to the previous days. Still, it was a good performance, and he'll be back in (blitz and bullet) action on Saturday against Wesley So in the last quarterfinal match of Chess.com's Speed Chess Championship.

    UPDATE: Having noted Carlsen's next event, I should also note that Ding Liren is playing in the final FIDE Grand Prix tournament, in Palma de Mallorca, on Thursday. (Unfortunately, the organizers' decision to accommodate Carlsen's schedule, starting their match two days later than the other three, leaves poor Ding all of one day - or half a day - to acclimate for a tournament seven time zones away. I'm sure Ding felt that it was a trade-off worth making, especially since he doesn't need the Grand Prix to qualify for the Candidates, he made $40k for his troubles, and received the [painful but useful] opportunity to play 30 games against the world champion. And he's probably right, but it's too bad that he had to make such a decision - especially since whatever Carlsen's other obligation was it wasn't playing in a chess tournament.)

    Also, a stat I intended to mention, but forgot: there were 120 games in total played in the four matches, and in the end Black had a plus score: 38 wins, 34 losses, and 48 draws. Perhaps there have been other elite events in the past with a comparable number of total games where Black outscored White, but I doubt that there are many of them. Maybe some database jockeys out there can find some examples?

    Tuesday
    Nov142017

    Scheduling Notification: The Last Day of the Champions Showdown Starts Now (Two Hours Early)

    If you want to watch the last day of the 2017 Champions Showdown in real time, featuring the 12 five-minute games between Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren, tune in now: they're starting two hours earlier than usual.

    Monday
    Nov132017

    2017 Champions Showdown, Day 5: Carlsen Obliterates Ding to Win the Match

    Is "obliterates" too strong a word? If so, then just barely. Ding Liren won the first of today's 10-minute games, playing terrific chess, and then he scored just half a point in the remaining seven games. Ding is a candidate, the #10 player in the world, a former blitz #1 and the #3 player at the start of the match. No matter: after his one win Carlsen won the next four, and after a draw finished with two more wins.

    It was just an awesome performance by the world champion, who clinched match victory with a day to go and pushed his blitz rating to a crazy 2974. It's not so unusual to read something like that in the context of nine round round-robins, but in this case there are 12 games left. Again, no matter: with his insane 19.5-4.5 victory today his overall score is 50-18; he in fact clinched victory with his win in today's penultimate game.

    Apparently tomorrow's games won't be rated - FIDE's rule is that match games played after one side has clinched victory won't be rated, so the only question is whether either player will demonstrate much intensity or motivation tomorrow. It's amazing that as bad as the Nakamura-Topalov beatdown was - expectedly - this was even more decisive. Incredible. It will be interesting to see if Carlsen can carry over this form to the next Grand Chess Tour event, when the players return to classical time controls. If so, he may yet be able to make a run at 2900.

    Monday
    Nov132017

    2017 Champions Showdown, Day 4: Americans Sweep; Carlsen Crushing

    It was a great day for the American players, who rolled on to victory. Hikaru Nakamura was always going to win against Veselin Topalov, entering the final day with a big lead and an overwhelming favorite in the blitz. To no one's surprise - including Topalov's - he finished like a hammer, winning nine games and drawing three. The scoring in the blitz was 2-1-0, so he won the session 21-3 and won overall by a ridiculous 61.5-30.5 margin. All the matches have a $100,000 prize fund split 60-40, so Nakamura won $60,000 to Topalov's $40,000.

    In the other two matches, the Americans continued the comebacks they had started at the end of day 3. Fabiano Caruana had won three games followed by a draw at the end of the previous day to close to within four points, and on day 4 he won, drew, and won again to equalize the scores. Having done so, Grischuk enjoyed his one bright spot when he won the fourth game - and even that took a lot of help: Caruana made a fingerfehler in the opening to lose a pawn, and when Caruana fought back to a drawn position he made two further errors to lose the game. But that was the end of his good news: in the last eight games the pattern kept repeating: a draw followed by a Caruana win. In all, Caruana won six games, lost just one, and drew five. He won the session 17-7 and the match 49-43.

    Wesley So likewise continued his great comeback. He had won the last three games on day 3, and although he was still down seven points he too overcame his deficit. He won his first two games, drew, and won two more games to take the lead. The rest of the way the play was closer, but So never surrendered his lead. Overall he went +7-2=3, winning the section 17-7 and the match 47.5-44.5.

    Finally, the world champion proved his greatness yet again. Magnus Carlsen dominated Ding Liren in the g/20 portion of the match, winning three games and drawing three. As you may recall, Carlsen led 12.5-7.5 after the first day, and with each of the 20-minute games weighted on a 4-2-0 basis he took day 2 18-6 and leads the match 30.5-13.5 going into the 10-minute games, which will start momentarily.

    Congratulations to the Americans...and probably to Carlsen too, barring a quasi-miracle.

    Saturday
    Nov112017

    2017 Champions Showdown, Day 3

    It was a good day for the underdogs/those who were trailing, as none of them lost ground on their opponents - though in every case they started off on the wrong foot.

    Thus Veselin Topalov started off with a loss as Black against Hikaru Nakamura, but struck back in the next game. The same pattern happened in the next two games, with first Nakamura and then Topalov again winning with Black. The last two games were drawn, and so while they split the 10-minute games 4-4 (or rather, 12-12 on the 3-1.5-0 scoring used for the 10-minute portion of the match) Nakamura keeps his hefty overall lead, 40.5-27.5 going into the last day.

    Fabiano Caruana came into the day four points behind Alexander Grischuk - the difference provided by the latter's win in the final game in the g/20 portion of the match. It looked like it was about to become a blowout in the g/10 after Grischuk scored 3.5 points in their first four games, thanks in part to his own successful play but also due to some egregious blunders by Caruana. But Caruana righted the ship, winning three games in a row before drawing the last game, so Grischuk maintains his 4-point lead (36-32) heading into the finale.

    Wesley So came into the day with a significant deficit against Leinier Dominguez, and after four draws and a loss in the game/10 portion it looked like the match was as good as over. But not yet! So won the last three games of the day, and trails 37.5-30.5.

    Sunday's action comprises 12 five-minute games, each worth two points (2-1-0 scoring), so none of the matches have been clinched yet (though Topalov's chances of coming back are extremely low).

    The fourth match started today, and will continue through Tuesday: Magnus Carlsen vs. Ding Liren. They played four 30-minute games, drawing the first three before Carlsen won and took the lead in game four. Carlsen had White in games 1 and 3, but should have lost that first game. He was bailed out, and then Ding was bailed out in game 3 when he too was entirely lost. Carlsen's win in game 4 was impressive, pressuring his opponent in a nominally equal ending until he broke. Following the pattern of the earlier matches, they will play six 20-minute games tomorrow.

    Saturday
    Nov112017

    2017 Champions Showdown, Day 2

    Some interesting chess is being played, but the quality of the games is decreasing as the time control gets shorter, thanks especially to the lack of increment. The last rounds were particularly horrible: in their penultimate game Dominguez beat So in a time scramble where So was better on the board and on the clock, but Dominguez moved faster, and both sides engaged in quasi-illegal to illegal behavior (because the board and pieces are slick enough to host a mini-curling match, the pieces rarely wound up where they were supposed to; additionally, Dominguez made two-handed captures, which is certainly against FIDE's rules, as we learned from a Nakamura game back in 2016, if I recall correctly). And in the final round Caruana left his queen en prise in a winning position (and with some time on his clock!), while Topalov failed to defeat Nakamura despite having an extra piece.

    One thing that has been instructive, from a chess point of view, is that we've repeatedly seen (both days) that the anti-Berlin plan of playing 4.d3, taking on c6, and then mounting a kingside attack with castling queenside and playing g4 is surprisingly toothless. And there have been other interesting opening ideas as well. But the lack of time, and probably some fatigue as well, is spoiling the games and severing the logical connection of what's happening during most of the game and its final result.

    Anyway, here are the results: Nakamura won two games and drew four against Topalov, which meant that he went 16-8 in this section on the 4-2-0 scoring. Since he led after the first day 12.5-7.5, his overall lead is 28.5-15.5.

    Grischuk went +2-1=3 against Caruana, winning the day 14-10. They split on day one, so Grischuk has a narrow 24-20 lead overall.

    Dominguez went +3-1=2 against So. Thus, like Nakamura, he won the day 16-8, and since he - again like Nakamura - went 12.5-7.5 the first day he likewise leads overall with a 28.5-15.5 score.

    Today there will be eight rounds of game/10 with the same pairings, and it is also the first day of Magnus Carlsen vs. Ding Liren, who will contest four g/30s.

    The action starts in 20 minutes or so (2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. local time in St. Louis).

    Wednesday
    Nov082017

    2017 Champions Showdown Starts Tomorrow/Today (Thursday)

    St. Louis is the entertainment capital of the chess world, and their latest offering is a new edition of the Champions Showdown. It is a vehicle for the United States's Big Three, and in addition there's the biggest of the big: the World Champion. Each of the four - champ Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, and Hikaru Nakamura - will play 30 games, and none against each other. Instead, they are matched up as follows:

    • Hikaru Nakamura vs. Veselin Topalov
    • Fabiano Caruana vs. Alexander Grischuk
    • Wesley So vs. Leinier Dominguez
    • Magnus Carlsen vs. Ding Liren

    The first three matches start tomorrow/today (Thursday) at 1 p.m. local time (= 2 p.m. ET), while the last one starts on Saturday. Correspondingly, the first three matches end on Sunday, while Carlsen and Ding will keep us entertained through Tuesday.

    The time controls will drop as the matches go on: Day 1 will see four g/30s, day 2 six g/20s, day 3 offers eight g/10s, and the final day will have 12 five-minute games.

    Each match has its own $100,000 prize fund, with a 60-40 split for the winner and loser, respectively.

    Predictions? I expect Carlsen to win his match comfortably, Nakamura to crush Topalov, and Grischuk to defeat Caruana. So-Dominguez feels like a coin flip to me, but I'll trust So to play enough like his peak self of 2016 to pull it off.