World Chess Championship 2023
I didn’t realise until we were on holiday last week that the World Chess Championship was taking place and thanks to YouTube and the hilarious chap that hosts Gotham Chess (aka Levy Rozman), I was able to follow the commentary of the later games, including lots of incredible expert and computer analysis of the moves played.
According to Wikipedia: “The World Chess Championship 2023 was a chess match between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren to determine the new World Chess Champion. The match took place in Astana, Kazakhstan, from 9 April to 30 April 2023, and was a best of 14 games, plus tiebreaks. The previous champion Magnus Carlsen decided not to defend his title against Ian Nepomniachtchi, the winner of the Candidates Tournament 2022. As a result, Nepomniachtchi played against Ding Liren, who finished second in the Candidates Tournament. After a 7–7 score tie in the classical time format, on 30 April, the game proceeded to tiebreakers with rapid time format. After a draw in the first three games, Ding Liren won with black in the final game of the rapid section to become the 17th World Chess Champion. With the match going into tie-breaks, Ding won €1.1 million, 55% of the prize total. Nepomniachtchi won €900,000, 45% of the prize total”.
At the beginning of the year, after a break from playing online and over the board (OTB) chess, just after “Covid lockdown” begun, I found a renewed interest, documented in my “Chess revisited” blog. I effectively came out of chess retirement, brought on by a lack of enthusiasm, having concluded I wasn’t going to get better. Since writing, I have played some online games for Team England on Chess.com, games with a lad who I am tutoring and OTB chess at a drop in centre for homeless folk. Besides being entertained and instructed by the likes of Gotham Chess, I have been following the 2023 World Chess Championship final. This final fascinated me, firstly, because it involved two top players playing for the most coveted prize in chess – being crowned world champion in the classical form of the game. Secondly, it was a close run thing, evidenced by the competition being tied after the allocated fourteen games. Thirdly, it was exciting; the human aspects were all too apparent, including brilliances, blunders, missed and unlikely wins.
Today, I watched the four-game tie break with Ding emerging as the unlikely winner in the fourth game, which had been heading for a draw but for a brilliancy on the part of Ding. Ding’s is one of those fairy tale stories of someone coming from nowhere to clinch the title. It was a final of contrasting styles, which made it so fascinating. Ding appeared to be more the aggressor and often seemed to be over-extending himself, with Nepo playing solid chess throughout but also blowing his chances by not punishing his opponent when Ding’s aggression and innovation were found wanting. I feel sorry for Nepo with his dignified approach, who lost out in the 2021 World Championship final against Magnus Carlson. He would have fancied his chances against Ding, having led on four separate occasions in the match and had winning chances in some of the games he lost, but I am delighted for Ding who entertained and showed a fighting spirit throughout. While he often rode his luck, he nevertheless proved himself to be a worthy world champion.