The great affected by the pandemic, Liren Ding, shows signs of coming back strong three months after he disputed the world title (after the resignation of Magnus Carlsen) against the Russian Ian Niepómniashi. The Chinese, 2nd in the world, has won unappealably with the black pieces against the Indian powerhouse Dommaraju Gukesh, 16, in the 1st round of the Tata Festival, on Roland Garros of chess, which 14 players play in Wijk aan Zee (Netherlands). The Uzbek Nodirbek Abdusattórov, 18, defeated, also with black, the Romanian Richard Rapport.
“I don’t take this tournament as training for the World Cup, but very seriously, to try to win it,” Ding clarified after his victory. He also explained why he finally accepted the invitation after rejecting it in July, after his 2nd place in the Madrid Candidates Tournament: “First of all, I respect Jeroen Van den Berg, the organizer, a lot, because he fights to maintain classical chess, instead of promoting rapid and blitz game modes. Also, after thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that playing such a hard slow tournament now is the best way to reach the World Cup in the best possible shape”.
It is true that, since his astonishing performance at the Chess Olympiad in Chennai (India) in July, Gukesh has not dazzled for six months. But, if anything, Ding’s victory has been very convincing as China finally relaxes its strict anti-covid policy on travel. And significant on his state of mind and self-confidence, because in the opening he was able to choose a very calm and confident continuation, which almost guaranteed him at least a draw, and yet he chose to unbalance the position so that both sides had a good chance of winning. victory. “I managed to get Gukesh out of his comfort zone in the opening, which allowed me to equalize quickly. Then I have found several difficult plays. I am very satisfied with my performance”, explained the Asian.
Meanwhile, Carlsen squeezed as much as he could with white -always with a somewhat advantageous position- against the American of Armenian origin Levón Aronian, who at 40 has dropped to 16th in the world. However, it can be deduced that if he plays every day like today he will return to the top ten because he has always found the best defense when the champion pushed him hard. Carlsen has set himself such an ambitious goal (exceed 2,900 Elo points) that this small setback with white is already a setback.
Rapport is not fine either, since he changed his Hungarian nationality to Romanian, as seen today in his lack of technical precision against Abdusattórov, but it is no less true that the Uzbek youth, rapid world champion in 2021, also shines in slow , as in the gold medal with his country in the Olympiad.
The other two Indian powerhouses faced each other. Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, 17, and Arjun Erigaisi, 19, tied a very interesting fight from start to finish. The same can be said about the fight between the Iranian Parham Maghsoodloo, 22, and the German Vincent Keymer, 18. And also about the other two draws, Caruana-Giri and Van Foreest-So, who completed a magnificent opening day in regarding the level of combativeness.
Second round (Sunday, 2:00 p.m.): So-Erigaisi; Aronian-Praggnanandhaa; Keymer-Carlsen; Ding-Maghsoodloo; Giri-Gukesh; Abdusattorov-Caruana; and Van Forest-Rapport.
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