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Ding Liren is no longer World’s No.2 after the Tata Steel Masters 2023

The Tata Steel Masters 2023 is over with Anish Giri having one of the best tournaments of his life and finally winning it after five times of being a runner-up. Things didn’t go as well for the 2023 Challenger Ding Liren though, who had a rather painful tournament and finished 11th with a 5.5/13 score, two months before the World Chess Championship Match in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Photos: Ding Liren by Lennart Ootes at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023, Ian Nepomniachtchi by Eric Rosen at the 2021 World Chess Championship Match / edit: World Chess

There were high hopes for Ding Liren at the Tata Steel Masters 2023 as he is not only World’s No.2 but also in his preparation for the World Chess Championship Match against Ian Nepomniachtchi, that will take place 7-19 of April in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The tournament started well for the Chinese GM who outplayed the 16-year-old Indian prodigy D. Gukesh in Round 1. “You have to prepare mentally, you have to imagine what will happen if you are in the centre of people and there will be only one game, and every eye will watch you.” Ding said at his post-game interview.

It’s impressive to think that Liren hasn’t played a single classical game since beating Hikaru Nakamura on July 4th last year at the Candidates Tournament. This win gave him the ticket to the WCCM and Tata Steel Masters 2023 was a great chance to warm up and check his form.

In Round 3, in a game that looked like a World Chess Championship game, Ding drew against Magnus Carlsen. At that moment Ding and Magnus were the only players above 2800 with Magnus confessing after their game: “Ding is a very strong player and I have never beaten him as White so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”

In Round 4 Ding Liren was defeated by Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu. “We both made some mistakes during the second time control, we were both down to seconds, and I don’t think my technique was good but ok, it’s not easy to find the right moves in this endgame, because there are so many options and it’s not easy to calculate everything!” Pragg said at his post-game interview.

After more draws against Arjun Erigaisi, Levon Aronian, Vincent Keymer, and Wesley So, Liren lost to Giri in Round 9. “I was very happy. I feel so very lucky because the game was not looking good. At one point, I even thought, I’m borderline lost.” Anish said at his post-game interview.

Round 12 was the last hit for Liren who lost against Richard Rapport and was blatantly disappointed. Liren finished the tournament 11th with a 5.5/13 score to lose 23.4 rating points and slide down to World No.3 on the rating list.

Will Ding be ready for the biggest match of his life in two months?

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