With a draw on Saturday, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren are all tied after 14 classic games
China’s Ding Liren stood in a risky position to salvage a draw against Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi on Saturday in a marathon Game 14 of the World Chess Championship match. What is being called the most exciting title match in decades will now be decided in a showdown on Sunday.
Tied at 6.5 points apiece going into the 14th and final game, a decisive result would have seen a new world champion crowned for the first time since 2013. Ding had the white pieces, a small but significant advantage in chess. ‘elite, meaning he had every chance to look for chances to win.
However, the Chinese grandmaster faltered, failing to give Nepomniachtchi problems early on and subsequently making several inaccuracies that gave his opponent an opening. With Ding in an inferior position and time running out, the Russian looked set to record a stunning triumph in the endgame with the black pieces.
However, Nepomniachtchi himself turned bad on move 36 and gave up his advantage. A subsequent exchange of pieces left only a pair of rooks and pawns on the board to accompany the kings, with the players having controlled time. Although Nepomniachtchi had an extra pawn, such an advantage is often insufficient to win, and Ding eventually secured the draw in a game that saw 90 moves and lasted over six and a half hours.
With the two grandmasters tied at seven points apiece, the action will switch to a four-game “quick” series on Sunday. Players will be allocated 25 minutes each, with ten seconds added for each move. If the tie is still not broken, a two-match “blitz” mini-series will ensue, at a time control of three minutes with two seconds added per move. If a winner still does not emerge, subsequent blitzes will be in “sudden death” format, with a coin toss to determine colors.
The last time a tie-break was needed to crown a world champion was in 2018, when Norway’s Magnus Carlsen beat American challenger Fabiano Caruana in the “quick” tie-break. However, unlike this year’s game, which featured an almost unprecedented six tiebreaks, 2018’s render saw all classic games end in draws.
This year’s match has been hailed by chess commentators as perhaps the most exciting of a generation. Former world champion Viswanathan Anand called the encounter “a game for the ages.” The players traded blow after blow, at times demonstrating aggressive and exceptional play – but also making an unusual number of errors.
In Game 12, Nepomniachtchi, already leading the game by one point, gained a solid advantage and looked set to secure a virtually insurmountable two-point lead with just two games remaining. However, the Russian inexplicably started playing fast in a double-edged position and first gave up his advantage before quickly finding himself in a lost position.
The match takes place at the St. Regis Hotel in Astana, Kazakhstan.
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