King number seventeen: Ding Liren became world chess champion
Chance helped the Chinese grandmaster twice, but no one would raise his tongue to call his victory accidental.
Ian Nepomniachtchi nervously spins the black pawn in his hand. The fourth rapid game in the World Chess Championship match is approaching the final. Things are bad for Jan: two black pawns are rushing to his first rank. Time is running out, and the opponent, the Chinese grandmaster Ding Liren, responds to his moves almost instantly, although he has forty seconds more on his watch. Nepomniachtchi looks into the hall, gets nervous, scatters the black figures standing on his right hand. After three seconds, he will extend this hand to the opponent to congratulate him, and then get up from his chair and leave the stage. Dean stays at the table. It seems that he does not have the strength to get up - only to cover his forehead and eyes with his hand and once again shake hands with the departing Nepomniachtchi.
When, after ten seconds, he nevertheless gets up from his place, no joy is visible on his face - only mortal fatigue. These were the first moments of the new king of chess - the seventeenth world champion Ding Liren.
He was not supposed to participate in this match in the summer of 2022 - many remember this. But few people remember that in the tournament of contenders for the chess crown, Dean was not supposed to play and got there only because the Russian Sergey Karyakin was disqualified. And few could predict that the 30-year-old Chinese will leave behind the Americans Nakamura and Caruana, and the Azerbaijani Radjabov, and the 19-year-old French golden boy Firouzja. But what would be the use of that second place? After all, only the winner, Ian Nepomniachtchi, got the right to fight Magnus Carlsen for the title.
But soon after the end of the Candidates Tournament, Carlsen refused to defend the title: he did not find the motivation to do so. In accordance with the regulations, Dean took his place.
It was a very tough match. Of course, there has never been an easy fight for the title of world chess champion. But in the first games it seemed that Dean would break down not even as a chess player, but as a person: it was physically difficult for him to cope with this tension. He kept going to the rest room while Nepomniachtchi thought about it as he walked. He was cold, he was entangled with anxiety, tormented by unpleasant memories from the past. The body and mind of the Chinese worked to the limit, especially since in the first half of the match he lost three times in the long run. The second defeat turned out to be such that it could break anyone: Dean just wasted time, unable to find a move.
He will tell you how he managed to cope with it. There were six draws in the last seven games, and for the most part these were games in which the Russian grandmaster had more chances. But the Chinese, despite the obvious psychological exhaustion, was able to neutralize this advantage, and even win one duel.
In the tie-break, in rapid chess, Nepomniachtchi again had an advantage in the first, and in the second, and in the third game - and yet, time after time, he made mistakes and let Dean slip away. The fourth game was also crawling towards a draw, Jan was already repeating moves, tacitly offering a draw. But at that moment, the Chinese took the risk, and Nepomniachtchi did not read the danger, he made a mistake - and Dean was cold-blooded. And won.
Will Dean become caliph for one championship term or will he come to the top for a long time? Will Nepomniachtchi, who lost the second match in a row, be able to turn himself around and go this way again? Will Carlsen fight for the championship again? In world chess, after this victory, there was even more intrigue.