Grandmaster Ding Liren got crowned the new 2023 FIDE world champion on May 1, when he defeated grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi in the final rapid tiebreak of the 2023 FIDE World Championship.
By winning the finals, Liren became the first Chinese chess player to win the world championship and the first Asian player since Viswanathan Anand.
The 2023 FIDE World Championship occurred from April 9 to April 30 at St. Regis Hotel in Astana, Kazakhstan, where Ian Nepomniachtchi clashed with Ding Liren for the title of 2023 FIDE world champion. However, the event didn’t play out as initially intended.
The previous world champion, Magnus Carlsen, who first won the title in 2013, was required to defend his crown against a challenger, determined by a Candidates Tournament and did so successfully in 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2021. However, after the 2021 championship, Carlsen announced that he lacked the motivation to defend his title again unless the challenger was 19-year-old Alireza Firouzja, who claimed the no.2 ranking in 2021 at the age of 18.
Grandmaster Ding Liren received this weekend the official invitation to take part in the FIDE World Championship match 2023, after the current World Champion Magnus Carlsen formally confirmed, in writing, that he gives up his right to take part in the match and defend his title. pic.twitter.com/nzVxZEubpK— International Chess Federation (@FIDE_chess) October 31, 2022
After the conclusion of the Candidates Tournament 2022 – which Nepomniachtchi won, Carlsen announced that he would not defend his title. Therefore, the 2023 FIDE World Championship was decided between Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren – the runner-up of the 2022 Candidates Tournament.
It was quite a controversial decision by Carlsen since it’s rare to see a non-participation by the incumbent champion. It had happened before, however, including in 1999, when Anatoly Karpov refused to defend his title and in 2004 when Ruslan Ponomariov decided not to participate in the event as a protest.
A Thrilling Tiebreak For All The Marbles
Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi locked horns in the 2023 FIDE World Championship in a rematch from the Candidates Tournament 2022 (July 5), when Ian Nepomniachtchi won the title. But this time, things played out differently.
Liren and Nepomniachtchi went back and forth and, after 14 rounds, found themselves tied at 7-7, meaning that the world championship title bout would be decided in tiebreakers. And to the surprise of many, the 30-year-old from Zhejiang province, who never led in the three-week-long match at St Regis Astana Hotel, came out on top in the last of four rapid games.
The match, which looked to be in a drawn position, ended with Nepomniachtchi resigning after 68 moves, making Ding the first-ever Chinese chess player to become a world champion.
With tears of joy running down his face and with title in his hands, Ding lived through the quote he said in 2019;
“The meaning of life should be in those special, sparkling moments”.
“This match reflects the deepness of my soul. I could not control my mood. I will cry. I will burst into tears. It was quite a tough tournament for me. I feel quite relieved,” said Ding.
By winning the 2023 FIDE World Championship, Ding became the first Chinese chess player to claim the accolade and pocketed €1.1 million (55% of the total prize pool) in tournament winnings. Runner-up Nepomniachtchi secured a €900,000 consolation prize (45% of the total prize pool).
With Ding becoming the 17th FIDE world champion, the cycle ends, but it also raises some interesting questions: How long will Ding manage to keep ahold of the title?
Will Carlsen find the motivation to compete and challenge the newly-crowned world champion, will Alireza Firouzja live up to the expectations and compete for the coveted title, or will another challenger face Ding?