Ding Liren becomes China’s first male world chess champion
Ding Liren has become China’s first men’s world chess champion, after defeating Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi.
Ding, 30, won a rapid-play tiebreaker after 14 first-stage games at the World Chess Championship in Kazakhstan.
He succeeds Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, the five-time champion who said he was “not motivated” to defend his title.
Carlsen accused a US opponent of cheating last year in a row that rocked the chess world. He remains number one in the rankings.
Ding’s victory makes him the 17th winner of the world chess tournament, while Nepomniachtchi, who had previously made a grand final, fell at the final hurdle for a second time.
Ding said he was “quite relieved” after his victory, according to comments shared by FIDE, the International Chess Federation.
“The moment Ian resigned the game was a very emotional moment. I couldn’t control my feelings. I know myself, I will cry and burst into tears. It was a tough tournament for me.”
His victory was celebrated by chess fans and patriots in China, which is a growing chess power.
“One Ding to rule em all,” tweeted fellow grandmaster Anish Giri after Ding’s victory.
China’s General Administration of Sport, a government department, also posted a warm congratulatory message, praising Ding for “winning glory for the motherland and its people”.
A native of Wenzhou, China’s “chess city”, Ding triumphed in dramatic circumstances in Astana, the Kazakh capital.
The opening 14 games were played over three weeks. Ding and Nepomniachtchi each won three, with eight draws.
For the tiebreaker, each player had only 25 minutes to make their moves, plus an additional 10 seconds for each move played. Ding clinched victory in winning the fourth quick-fire game.
The 2m euro (£1.8m; $2.2m) prize money will be split 55-45 between the two players.
Ding was able to compete against Nepomniachtchi due to Carlsen’s abstention. Ding had finished second at the Candidates Tournament, which players must win to challenge the world champion.
In 2009, he became China’s youngest chess champion at national level.
Within 12 years, he had become the highest-ranked Chinese player in the world rankings, reaching second place.
Ding was undefeated in classical chess for 100 games from August 2017 to November 2018. This was the longest unbeaten streak in top-level chess history until Carlsen surpassed it in 2019.
His triumph reflects China’s growth in the global chess scene.
China has dominated women’s chess tournaments since the 1990s, when Xie Jun became the first Chinese person to claim a world title in 1991 in the women’s game.
No Chinese player had ever previously won the World Chess Championship, in which both men and women can compete.