World Chess Championship: Ding suffers in a six-hour game but saves a delicate moment in the ninth of the World Cup | Chess News

Relief and frustration are mixed in the draw of the ninth game of the World Cup in Astana (Kazakhstan). Ian Niepómniashi failed to land another blow, perhaps final, although he tried for six hours. Liren Ding got tangled up and suffered unnecessarily with the black pieces after equalizing easily in the first few sets, but he bought time (the tenth will be played on Sunday) to regain confidence. The Russian dominates 5-4 with five remaining.

If Ruy López de Segura, unofficial world champion in the 16th century and close to the court of Felipe II, raised his head, he could die again very satisfied. The Spanish Opening, to which he contributed so much (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5), although it was already known since the end of the XV century, continues to be one of the most used five centuries later.

Niepómniashi chose her for the third time in this duel, probably with the idea of ​​leaving the first phase of the fight with a small advantage that would allow him to put pressure on an opponent still touched by his loss on Tuesday in the seventh round for hours. This is the only way to explain why the Chinese omitted on Thursday, in the eighth, three winners (two of them easy for him) and had to accept a very disappointing draw.

But lo and behold, once again, Ding surprised the Russian using the Berlin Defense, historic since, in 2000, it was the decisive weapon for another Russian, Vladimir Kramnik, to dethrone Gari Kasparov in the duel in London. His main idea is to change queens quickly so that players with an aggressive style – like Kasparov or Niepomniashi – feel uncomfortable because it is much more difficult to attack without them. So Niepómniashi avoided the exchange of queens, but at the price of a very comfortable position for the Asian, who had already called after only six moves.

Niepómniashi looks at Ding during the ninth game of the World Cup
Niepómniashi looks at Ding during the ninth game of the World CupAnna Shtourman

However, the ghosts of self-doubt, installed in Ding’s mind since the duel began (he broke up with his girlfriend not long ago after a crisis of three years), returned to weigh down his enormous talent and encyclopedic wisdom. The Chinese began to get tangled up on move 17, and insisted on 21 and 24; They were not serious mistakes, but they were enough for his rival to achieve the type of positions that he likes, very complex and appropriate to attack.

Fortunately for Ding, Niepómniashi did not dare to get into variants that were somewhat risky for him, but clearly advantageous, and preferred another where he was a little better and with the prospect of pressing without risk until he bored his opponent. But Niepómniashi is not Magnus Carlsen, the still current champion, a great specialist in torturing his opponents to the last drop in such situations. And, although it is true that the Russian set several dangerous traps, and that there was a moment when the Chinese seemed very worried, the tie was signed after 82 movements and six hours

The key factor now is whether, during the break on Saturday, Ding is able to focus his thoughts on positive realities: he sets up the games better than Niepómniashi and has twice come back from behind in this duel. His returns from him to the best version of him, the one from the end of 2019, it is not unreasonable to affirm that he is as strong as the Russian, if not more. But when EL PAÍS asked him, after six hours of suffering, how he evaluates his confidence level from one to ten, he replied: “Five”.

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