Ding Liren Wins 2023 FIDE World Championship In Rapid Tiebreaks
GM Ding Liren is the new world champion after beating GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in the final rapid tiebreak game of the 2023 FIDE World Championship. Following a 7-7 tie in a thrilling 14-game classical match, it all came down to the final rapid game, which Ding won with Black in sensational style. GM Magnus Carlsen's reign is no more. For the first time since 2013, the torch has been passed to Ding, the 17th world champion.
Aside from claiming the title of world champion, Ding will receive €1.1 million for his victory while Nepomniachtchi will receive €900,000.
Tears of joy and a rare outpouring of emotion from Ding were the first scenes coming out of the St. Regis Hotel in the moments after Nepomniachtchi had resigned in the fourth and final rapid tiebreaker in Astana. With his head in his hands, the realization and relief hit Ding all at once. The scene recalls what Ding had said in 2019: “The meaning of life should be in those special, sparkling moments.”
The meaning of life should be in those special, sparkling moments.
—Ding Liren in 2019
"I feel that this was the match that reflects the deepest part of my soul," Ding said at the press conference after dedicating the victory to his friends, mother, and grandfather. With this victory, Ding becomes the first-ever classical world champion from China, also the home of Women's World Chess Champion GM Ju Wenjun.
With the scores locked at 1.5-1.5 in a match that White had statistically dominated overall (five wins for White and one for Black in the first 17 games), very few people expected that Ding would look to press with Black in the final game.
The Anti-Marshall was the arena for the 18th game. After finding success with the opening in earlier games where he had, in his own words, "had every chance," Nepomniachtchi declared his intent to play for a win with the unusual 13.Bb1.
As the middlegame progressed, both players made decisions that implied that they were playing for a win. Ding would later state: "The white pieces are not always the advantage."
As the position opened up, Nepomniachtchi's bishop pair began to look ominous, and many viewers began to write Ding off. During this time, Chess.com viewership across all platforms peaked at 441,000 viewers, almost doubling the average viewership of the broadcast which had been 220,000. Both numbers are records for the website.
With the chess world waiting with bated breath, Nepomniachtchi soon played an inaccuracy, 35.Ra1?, which brought the position back to equal, although the position still looked easier for Nepomniachtchi. "It was hard to imagine I could lose" were the self-admitted thoughts of the Candidates winner about this moment, and most viewers probably anticipated that it was a two-result match.
Both Caruana and Hess were alert to the fact that Ding's best remaining chance was to play into an ending where the a-pawn could become dangerous, and it seemed that Ding had the same intuitive feeling.
Then, the unexpected happened. With two minutes and 30 seconds left on the clock, Ding played the brilliant 42... Qe2!!, a move that Caruana suggested: "Nepo might have missed." The move, which left Ding's bishop en prise with a dangerous threat of a king and rook fork, shifted the momentum.
Nepomniachtchi briskly offered a draw by repetition with checks on the light squares, and the game appeared to be heading this way before Ding played the astonishing 46...Rg6. In what can only be described as a chess coach's nightmare, the now-world champion's idea to play for a win was to pin his second strongest piece to his king! "I felt my king was safer on h7," was Ding's nonchalant reasoning for a move that would later be identified as the catalyst for victory.
By the time Ding played 47...c4, Nepomniachtchi already knew that he was in trouble: "In the fourth game, I had to play more accurately. After the move c4, I had little time, and it was difficult." Part of this anxiety may have resulted from his opponent's clinical displays of endgame technique so far in the match.
GM Rafael Leitao kindly provides his annotations of the decisive fourth game as well as the others below.
In a style that will now become synonymous with his reign as the 17th world champion, Ding rolled his pawns up the board to victory. A shake of hands on the 68th move signaled the end of an extraordinary match that nearly needed blitz tiebreaks to split the players for the first time in chess history.
Congratulatory messages poured in from chess greats of all generations, although Ding would have likely felt most fulfilled getting the nod from the former world champion GM Magnus Carlsen, who tweeted: "Self-pinning for immortality. Congrats Ding!!"—highlighting Ding's ambitious 46...Rg6, which consequently helped him win the crown.
For those interested in the three games that led to the final showdown, they were full of excitement and huge moments as well. Ding opened the tiebreaks with 1.d4, an opportunity for redemption after his game 14 spiraled out of control. In a return to his roots, a Catalan structure soon appeared on the board, and Caruana announced: "Ding was definitely dictating the result of the opening."
Nepomniachtchi played in his usual style, moving both quickly and actively, and neither player shied away from middlegame complications when they arose. Zwischenzug was a central theme for both players in the first game as they wrestled for the initiative.
The most exciting moment of the game came after Nepomniachtchi's 25...axb6!!, an "advanced Botez Gambit," in the words of Caruana, that forced liquidation and, consequently, a draw by repetition after 35 moves.
As the position progressed, Nepomniachtchi earned the right to attack, courtesy of Black's ruptured pawn structure. Hess boldly claimed that there was a distinct "opening advantage for Nepomniachtchi," but Ding once again proved his mettle with clinical defense, exchanging into a drawn rook and pawn ending and keeping the scores level.
Nepomniachtchi, later ruing missed chances in this game, stated: "The key moment was in the second game, I had more chances to win but didn't realize it."
Sachdev highlighted the third rapid game as "the most peaceful," and it turned out to be the calm before the storm. In his last game with the white pieces in the four rapid games, Ding played 1.Nf3 for the first time in the world championship. The Chinese GM's double-fianchetto setup was easily tamed by Nepomniachtchi, and pieces began to fly off the board.
On move 21, a small moment of tension appeared when the commentators realized that Black would have to play a pawn down in a rook and bishop ending. Nepomniachtchi, who had confidently paced around the room for the majority of the game, saw no issues with the position and proved that White's advantage was superfluous. He eventually forced a rook swap that left the players hurrying toward a repetition.
After the fateful deciding game and being freed from the shackles that prevented them from sharing information about their preparation and teams, Nepomniachtchi would reveal that his team included none other than former world champion GM Vladimir Kramnik as well a "big team" in support that included GMs Maxim Matlakov, Ildar Khairullin, and Nikita Vitiugov.
Ding's second was slightly more obvious. His partner in crime, GM Richard Rapport, posed with friends, family, and fans after the historic win.
When asked about how he would celebrate the victory, Ding mentioned that he would "like to travel" in his spare time. As far as spare time goes, there will be little rest for the champion after this event. In four days, he will begin playing in the Grand Chess Tour in Bucharest, Romania, joined by Nepomniachtchi, Rapport, and other top GMs.
As this tournament wraps up and the cycle begins again, several questions come to mind. How long will Ding hold the most coveted title in chess? Will Carlsen challenge him in the next cycle? Regardless of the answers, this is certain: Chess has never been more alive than now, and the 2023 FIDE World Championship was an absolute testament to the excitement that chess can provide.
In the words of GM Anatoly Karpov: "Chess is everything: art, science, and sport."
You can watch video recaps of the FIDE World Championship in our playlist below (click here).
Match Score (Tiebreaker)
Match Score (Classical)
The 2023 FIDE World Championship has been the most important over-the-board classical event of the year and has decided the next world champion. Nepomniachtchi and Ding played a match to decide who takes over Carlsen's throne when the former world champion abdicated his title. The match had a €2 million prize fund and was played over 14 classical and four rapid tiebreak games.