Ding Liren Game of the Year?

by Macauley Peterson
11/11/2017 – Ding Liren, the Chinese number one and participant in the Candidates Tournament 2018 in Berlin, enjoys the reputation of being a solid positional player. But in round 18 of the Yingmei Cup — the Chinese Team Championship — he showed that he is also a world class attacking player by demolishing Bai Jinshi with Black in one of the most beautiful and most spectacular games of the year. Grandmasters Daniel King and Rustam Kasimdzhanov both had a closer look. Enjoy! And tell us about your favourite games of 2017. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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Bai Jinshi vs Ding Liren

Ding Liren has had a remarkable year. His winning streak in September's World Cup propelled him to a place in the 2018 Candidates tournament, where he will be the first Chinese participant ever. Next week he'll play in the final tournament of the Grand Prix series in Palma de Majorca, where a strong performance could yet see him win that entire series. And today, he's in Saint Louis to begin a rapid and blitz match with World Champion Magnus Carlsen as part of the "Champions Showdown." But a week ago today, he added further to his laurels by creating a stunning tactical crush of his young compatriot Bai Jinshi, in just 32 moves with the black pieces, and culminating in a spectatular king hunt.


Ding Liren game of the year against Bai Jinshi, with Gao Rui looking on | Photo: imsa.cn 

Magnus Carlsen himself was in the ChessBase studio this week, and weighed in on the game (starting at the 3 minute mark):


It was not only the move [20...]Rd4 which gets the headlines, but the follow up was also both accurate and beautiful. It's not going to be easy to beat that. I had already a training session with Ding, so I was already impressed with how fast he can calculate very difficult lines and that's one of the reasons I found him the most interesting opponent [in Saint Louis].

Game of the year?

Almost as soon as it was played, commentators started calling it the "game of the year" on social media. Magnus Carlsen's second Peter Heine Nielsen was one of the first to call attention to the game on Facebook, calling it "just amazing". Other terms of praise floating around included "wizard", "absurd and ridiculously wonderful" and suspicions that Ding "learned to play chess in a parallel universe".

Naturally, Daniel King took a closer look for his PowerPlay channel:

And so did Rustam Kasimdzhanov in the ChessBase studio:

Replay the game


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Other game of the year candidates?

Do you have a candidate for game of the year in mind? Let us know in the comments below!

We'll be putting together a list, as 2017 winds down, for a special end-of-year review. If we choose your suggestion, you'll win a free 3-month ChessBase Premium account (or account extension)!

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Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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benonijump benonijump 11/15/2017 05:27
Also worthy of mention as one of the Top-5 Games of the Year for me is Kramnik-Harikrishna from the Shamkir Masters. Kramnik sacrifices a rook for two pawns but soon gets a third pawn and, though black was objectively better by computer analysis, positional pressure with two bishops against a weakened black king. In fact, I'm putting this in my Top-3 for the year.
benonijump benonijump 11/14/2017 06:30
While Ding Liren's win is certainly fantastic, I have to put it behind at least two other games from this year: My #1 Game of the Year goes to Aronian-Carlsen from the Altbox Norway tournament with Aronian's positionally deep exchange sacrifice followed by his "for the galleries" Bxh7. Receiving my #2 vote is Caruana's win over Nakamura from R6 of the London Chess Classic. I would put Ding Liren's win somewhere in the group with Anand's nice win over Caruana in St Louis, Carlsen-Bu Xiangzhi from the World Cup, and Nakamura-Vachier Lagrave from London R7.
macauley macauley 11/13/2017 01:53
@weerogue - Of course you're right. I intended "wins" but now changed it to "winning streak".
weerogue weerogue 11/13/2017 10:14
Thanks for the article.
Typo in the opening paragraph - Ding didn't win the World Cup, he finished second.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/12/2017 05:29
@ vinniethepooh : Quite so. A game is supposed genuine until someone PROVES that it is not. And ebit didn't proved anything. This is only a wild surmise without any objective justification... And Carlsen himself (who, furthermore, trained with Ding Liren, so he knows him particularly well) obviously thinks that this game corresponds perfectly to Ding Liren's style and abilities... so perhaps ebit is more knowledgeable in chess than Carlsen ???
vinniethepooh vinniethepooh 11/12/2017 04:29
@ ebit. Why do you think so? This is the mentality of many people, first thing which comes to mind when someone played beautiful game is cheating. Why. Why are we trying to think of any justification that the other guy is not so great? Very bad mentality, I must say. Shameful.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/12/2017 07:48
@ maxharmonist : Yes, this is true. Objectively, for example, Bu Xiangzhi's victory against Carlsen must be more meaningful that Ding Liren's victory against Bai Jinshi. Even if, obviously, Ding Liren is in general a stronger player than Bu Xiangzhi (at least for the moment, because these things can change !). But to win against a 2822 player (Carlsen at the time of his loss against Bu Xiangzhi) or against a 2553 player (Bai Jinshi) isn't the same thing (even if the win against a 2553 player is a spectacular win).
maxharmonist maxharmonist 11/12/2017 07:26
The difference between a game like this and Kasparov’s immortal is that Kasparov played an opponent that was world class and had won numerous top events already a few years earlier, while Ding Liren’s opponent was 2553 rated.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/12/2017 12:08
Quite a beautiful game indeed (and I also quite like Ding Liren as a person, so I'm really pleased he managed to play such a beautiful game...).

But I rather regret that, generally, only ultra-tactical games are taken into consideration, for the "best games" category.

For example, I very much liked the Anand - Hou Yifan game, from the Isle of Man tournament (http://en.chessbase.com/post/magnus-carlsen-wins-isle-of-man-open). It was an extremely smooth game ; even the decisive 25.Nxf7 tactic came completely naturally. Very impressive, in my opinion, and I like such a game quite as much as the Bai Jinshi - Ding Liren game.

In a quite tactical and attacking style, I also really liked Bu Xiangzhi's victory against Carlsen in the World Cup (http://en.chessbase.com/post/fide-world-cup-2017-can-magnus-carlsen-save-himself). To play an opening gambit immediately followed by a piece sacrifice against none other than Carlsen isn't something everyone would choose ! And Bu Xiangzhi DID manage to prove his point, and to win this game ! And, furthermore, it wasn't even a "back and forth" game ; after his piece sacrifice, Bu Xiangzhi was "in the driver's seat" until the end of the game ! To be able to do this against Carlsen (and with Black...) is really quite impressive !
virginmind virginmind 11/11/2017 09:14
Mein Gott!
workhardtryhard workhardtryhard 11/11/2017 06:26
Aronian MVL Armageddon match world cup 2017
ebit ebit 11/11/2017 05:44
Looks like an arranged, chinese game.
Ohanessian Ohanessian 11/11/2017 04:04
KevinC KevinC 11/11/2017 04:01
That is the best game I have seen since "Kasparov's Immortal Game". Kasparov-Topalov, Wijk aan Zee 1999, which I still think was better, but this game was pretty great!