ASTANA – The stakes are as high as ever at the FIDE World Chess Championship in Astana. Ding Liren convincingly defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi during the sixth game, leveling the score at 3:3 on April 16, reported the FIDE press service.
The match took another unexpected turn as Ding recovered from his heavy defeat in the fifth game the day before. The Chinese grandmaster, playing with white pieces, kicked off with the London system, a novelty move that offers a solid position to white.
“Today, I was struggling to decide which opening to play just before the start of the game. I had many choices. At the end, I decided to play something that I was more familiar with, and I tried to stay calm after yesterday’s loss,” said Ding during a press conference.
“In general, I felt like I was in good shape during the whole game,” said Ding. “I was not influenced by yesterday’s loss.”
On the contrary, his opponent was far from happy with his play. “I guess I played one of my worst games ever, nearly every move was bad,” said Nepomniachtchi after the game.
Playing under a neutral flag, the Russian grandmaster made several rash moves, giving the advantage to Ding, who seized the opportunity to capitalize on the opponent’s tactical weaknesses, leading Nepomniachtchi to resign on the move 44.
“In some way, it was like a mirror from yesterday’s game – the same patterns. The tension is high. Sometimes you can’t perform at your best,” said Nepomniachtchi commenting on the game.
The championship, which started on April 9, burst into life during the last three games, with both players taking turns to win. Four out of the six games have been decisive so far.
Nepomniachtchi was a slight favorite at the outset of the championship, but Ding is proving to be a resilient challenger.
With both players having equal chances to win, the championship has offered what some call a “rollercoaster” of emotions.
The game has been described as the beauty of chess incarnate by Levon Aronian, an Armenian-American grandmaster ranked among the world’s top 20.
“I hope the intensity and beauty of this chess World Championship will remind people that classical chess is quite often far more watchable and exciting than blitz or rapid chess. A chess boom combined with a lack of classical events does not make sense,” said Aronian on Twitter.
Anish Giri, the Dutch number one and the world’s top 10 grandmaster, also expressed his admiration for the game during the live commentary on Chess.com. “Amazing match. It’s completely remarkable what we are seeing. I haven’t seen something like this in a long time,” he said.
The high competitiveness of the games has sparked interest from the reigning champion and Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, who hinted that he might travel to Astana by writing “Astana calling” on his Instagram post. Last year, Carlsen announced he would not defend his title, explaining his decision with a lack of motivation.
With eight rounds remaining, the competition will resume on April 18, with a match that promises another riveting encounter.