Ding and Nepo in the press

by ChessBase
5/3/2023 – After his surprise win of the 2023 World Championship in Astana, Chinese GM Ding Liren spoke to 15 different Chinese media outlets, and "did not sleep a minute all night." He also spoke to the British newspaper The Guardian and the Spanish El País. As did Ian Nepomniachtchi. Here are some revealing excerpts from those stories.

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China’s first world champion, Ding Liren, and opponent Ian Nepomniachtchi, spoke to the British newspaper about the World Championship match and what it was like behind the scenes. Here are some excerpts:

Ding Liren

  • It turns out Ding has a nickname, "Silent Storm", “I am quiet,” he said, his voice rising barely above a whisper. “But then over the board …”
  • Ding admitted he was depressed after the first game, recovered, and then entered another dip after having his opening preparation leaked.
  • Ding's mental state at the start of the match was twitchy and the quality of his play poor. He moved out of the St Regis hotel because he was unhappy with his room, and confessed to being “a bit depressed” after the draw in the opening game, feeling there “might be something wrong with my mind” due to the pressure of the match.
  • When Ding was crushed with the white pieces in the second game, some speculated that the match waslost. “Of course I was worried,” he said. “It was the most difficult stage. But many people helped me to overcome the problem. And after that I felt much better.”
  • Ding held game three and managed to level the match at 2-2 when Nepomniachtchi blundered in game four. But the Russian continued to have the better chances, and when 6-5 ahead, should have put the match to bed in game 12 when he let a winning position slip after playing too quickly and then lost, allowing this opponent to level.

Ian Nepomniachtchi

  • Nepomniachtchi has major sleep problems and came to Astana prepared. “I had some medicine to make sure I can fall asleep. And at 1am I found it had vanished." He said he hopes there was no sinister background to this.
  • Nepo was generous in his praise for his opponent, and honest about his own failure to put his opponent away having led three times in the match. In the final tiebreak game the move 46...Rg6 has become chess lore.
  • Nepomniachtchi said it was not enough to "be a good player and get good positions. You also have to strike and to deliver. It was unexpected to have such an early lead with such ease and also unexpected to see how underprepared he was. But despite having no real ideas, or deep preparation, he managed to put up a fight. And I should give him very huge credit for that. In some games he was nearly on the ropes, but managed to play very precisely which saved him many points.”

Ding spoke to EL PAÍS for 20 minutes in Astana. The article in the Spanish news outlet includes quotes from previous interviews Ding has done with Chinese media. He spoke with 15 different Chinese media outlets, and did not sleep “a minute” all night. “I only had time to take a shower,” he says.

  • Ding Liren, 30, has been playing chess intensively since he was four years old. He completed a law degree because his father did not want him to abandon his studies. He reads a lot, especially philosophy. 
  • Ding broke down in tears during the recording of his official interview with FIDE. He became emotional when he began explaining the advice a friend gave him after he lost the second game of the World Chess Championship.
  • On the brink of defeat he remembered how Albert Camus talks about the concept of resistance. The idea is that if you see that you cannot win, do everything in your power to resist.

  • Ding sees a great connection between philosophy and chess, since both are abstract. “I am both very emotional and rational. And I’m also an art enthusiast. I consider myself an academic, a scholar who really likes to study, and I think I have found new ways to approach chess."
  • On how he intends to remain world champion: “I have to build a strong team, with great teachers and powerful computers. In short, I must be more professional." The main key in this match had been Richard Rapport, who "brought all the creativity that I was lacking with my openings.”
  • Ding entered kamikaze mode at two points in the tournament, with opposing results. He lost the seventh game from a very advantageous position when, with very little time on the clock, he staged a risky attack instead of playing cautiously." In the tiebreakers it was clear to him that Niepo was the favorite in blitz chess. "If the final rapid game had been drawn, we would have gone to the blitz. So I played to win.”
  • Before the World Championship Ding told a friend that he would retire if he lost. "And also that, since I know myself well, I would cry a lot if I won. I have won, I have cried a lot, I am not going to retire and life is now going in another direction.” If he manages to build his dream team, Ding says he will not be afraid of anyone: “I am ready for all challenges, including playing against Carlsen if he wants to recover the title, or to defend it against the young stars.”

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