Ding Liren wins quadruple round-robin in Hangzhou

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/5/2022 – Since it is likely that Sergey Karjakin will not play in the upcoming Candidates Tournament — his six-month ban is still pending a potential appeal — the spot left behind by the Russian will be filled by the highest-rated, eligible player in FIDE’s ranking list published on May 1. Ding Liren is the clear frontrunner in this race, but he only played 4 games since June 2021, with the regulations stipulating that a minimum of 30 games are needed to be eligible. Ding is quickly making up for lost ground, as three events have been organized in China to get him to play the 26 games needed by the end of the month. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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An unfortunate necessity

A number of rather unpredictable events had a major impact on Ding Liren’s potential participation in the 2022 Candidates Tournament. The ever-humble Chinese star could not make it neither to Khanty-Mansiysk (World Cup) nor to Berlin/Belgrade (Grand Prix series) due to China’s strict travel restrictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic — he also missed the Grand Swiss in Riga, although his compatriot Yu Yangyi did make it to the Latvian capital.

Moreover, for the first time since the return to the round-robin format in 2013, FIDE decided not to grant any spots based on players’ ratings. For Ding, whose lowest rating since May 2018 has been 2791, this left him with no chances of qualifying to the 8-player event. The chess community knows he is most deserving of getting a spot, but the rules are the rules.

FIDE’s Director General Emil Sutovsky explained on Twitter:

A sudden turn of fate, however, gave the 29-year-old a second chance. Sergey Karjakin, who qualified to the Candidates by reaching the final of the World Cup, received a six-month ban by FIDE’s Ethics and Disciplinary Commission, which will prevent him (pending a potential appeal) from participating at the tournament in Madrid.

As per the regulations, the spot left behind should be filled by the highest-rated player in the official ranking list for May 2022. A prerequisite to be eligible, though, is to have played at least 30 rated classical games between June 2021 and the end of April 2022. Again, due to the travel restrictions, Ding did not meet this criterion, as he only played four games in the period — all against Lu Shanglei in a match organized in December

Karjakin’s ban was announced on March 21, which meant Ding’s only chance to reach the Candidates was to play 26 classical games in a bit over a month while maintaining the highest rating of all eligible players — Levon Aronian is the closest chaser, as Alireza Firouzja and Fabiano Caruana are already qualified.

The Chinese Chess Association came up with a swift solution to the problem. First, they organized a 4-player quadruple round-robin in Hangzhou (12 games); then, a 6-game match against Wei Yi (6 games); and finally a 10-round qualifier to the Asian Games (10 games), set to finish on April 24. Ding already dominated the 4-player event and drew Wei Yi in the first game of their match. 

It is doubtlessly an artificial method to get him to play in the Candidates, but given the circumstances, it is arguably a justified — yet unfortunate — decision. Moreover, throughout the years, Ding has proven to be an extremely strong player as well as a fair, well-intentioned competitor.

Ding Liren, Magnus Carlsen

Ding Liren won the 2019 Sinquefield Cup after beating Magnus Carlsen in a rapid playoff | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Hangzhou: 9 wins in 12 games

Ding’s 2799 rating was more than 200 points higher than the ratings of all three of his opponents at the quadruple round-robin in Hangzhou. In the end, Ding won 9 out of his 12 games, gaining 9.8 rating points thanks to his massive 10½/12 score.

He did get in trouble a couple of times, though. For example, in round 1 against Li Di.


Black has a clear edge, with his rook stuck defending against the passer on the d-file and the knights too slow to deal with another potential passed pawn on the queenside. Li needed to focus on these two factors, with moves like 35...Rb8 or 35...Rd8 both good to keep his advantage. Furthermore, 35...b5 was the most forcing winning move in the position.

However, Li faltered with 35...f6, which gave White a couple of key tempi to regroup — 36.Nd6 Re6 37.Ng6 fxe5 38.fxe5


Only now Li went for 38...b5, but White is already too active and has a clear advantage. Ding’s conversion was not clean, but he managed to nonetheless get the full point six moves later.

Not only did Ding win 75% of his games but, curiously, the three remaining participants drew every single game in which Ding was not playing.

Final standings


All games



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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Green22 Green22 5/18/2022 08:31
Hey comments weren't shut off for this one. I guess people can't play nice so Chessbase shut down comments for all stories. People are like whinny little brats on here. They belong on Twitter.
arzi arzi 4/14/2022 07:36
To ChessTalk, of course people can change their minds, but before they join in Fide, for example, and start following Fide’s rules, they need to be told what they can and cannot say or do. This is somewhat the same as telling an athlete that this substance should not be used in sports or this hate talk is not allowed in competitions. If you use the doping for the first time or give a hate talk, you will only be banned for six months and if you do it again, you will receive a lifetime ban. Rules must be clear. So, you can´t say what ever you want to say if you are going to play with the rules of Fide. You cannot use any forbidden drugs or medicins and give hate talks to the public or on TV if you are going to battle for the gold medal in Olympics. Also an athelete or Karjakin has a responsibility to young children who see him as a role model and to sponsors from whom he/she receive money.

ChessTalk:" Anyways, you and I are not far off on the matter."

We are not, just a nuance difference.
ChessTalk ChessTalk 4/14/2022 02:24
Arzi, I think people can change their minds, just not Putin and his oligarchs. But Karjakin has been outspoken on other issues and there is little reason to believe he will 'evolve' on Putin's talking points. And I would much rather watch Ding Liren play in the candidates than 'drab' Karjakin. My real point is simple, give the Russian Federation and Karjakin a chance to change. They probably won't change. If they don't or can't ensure a change in rhetoric, then it's on them, not FIDE or Ding or any of our favorite players out there...the onus is on Putin's Russia and Russian Chess Federation and Karjakin. placing the onus on them would help FIDE saves some face when enforcing the ban of Karjakin. It's always good to appear just. They would preserve their international reputation for being fair and show some spine by not caving in to the Russian Federation. I fully agree that it's not about politics but about war in Europe or war in the world.

I enjoyed reading the article by Malcolm Pein. Pretty much an in-Russia's-face editorial. One of the reasons FIDE should try and resolve the matter is that many players are queasy about blackballing competitors based on their opinions. It's a fair criticism. Some have said that Karjakin wasn't given a warning; that is also a fair concern. They all said he was a nice guy...ofc, prone to authoritative rhetoric. He even deleted what he said. Can you find a copy of what he said? I'll tell you this, If Ding plays in Karjakin's spot, I will still watch the candidates without prejudice ;) If many premier players hadn't made these points, there would be no issue. Also, I looked for Kasparov's opinion on the matter. He usually expresses himself clearly. I don't find any quotes on the matter. I would think he would not like being censored or 'canceled' for any reason. Most players have expressed their condemnation of the Karjakin comments but few have said he should be banned. Anyways, you and I are not far off on the matter.
arzi arzi 4/13/2022 02:59
ChessTalk:"If Karjakin doesn't want to apologize, then he wants to be a "martyr"

What does this apologize really mean? First to say something bad and later apologize in public (even though you still think the opposite in your head). Everybody could do the same. People should think first and only then talk. You should be responsible for your words. Fide can´t be responsible for Karjakin´s word but Fide can punish Karjakin for his words. Fide does not have to accept the unethical, war stirring up, speeches of its members. Also, Karjakin could have been silent about his great joy of the war between Russia and Ukraine.
ChessTalk ChessTalk 4/11/2022 05:47
Arzi, there are always solutions. FIDE should do everything it can to get Karjakin into the Candidates. The international organization is suppose to solve problems. Of course, Karjakin made some stupid comments but he is just a pawn in that real war. FIDE should be able to work with the Russian Federation and Karjakin and get an apology from Karjakin and substantial guarantees that Karjakin will not talk about Putin's War. By doing this, FIDE puts the onus on Karjakin and the Russian Federation. If Karjakin doesn't want to apologize, then he wants to be a "martyr".
arzi arzi 4/11/2022 07:51
Ding Liren couldn´t guess that Karjakin was banned from the Candidates games. Ding Liren was sure that he was already out of that competition. I think anyone playing on the spot in Karjakin is a good solution. While chess is a war game, however, a player should not be encouraged to wage war in real life, especially if the player is one of the world’s best of its kind. Such conduct must be punished, not rewarded. The message should not only be directed at Putin but also at his supporters, like Karjakin.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 4/11/2022 05:54
@Leavenfish, yes he's the player I was referring to. For the last norm at least, weak GMs were intentionally invited and strong GMs were excluded. And then they literally kept playing the same tournament over and over again, until he got a high enough performance for a norm. Of course the other players are going to get fatigued and not take it as seriously. If you hold any tournament enough times with similar strength players, of course one will eventually get a standout performance. Is it technically cheating? No. Do I consider it cheating? Yes. I don't recall if there were irregularities in the other norms.
ChessTalk ChessTalk 4/9/2022 12:13
I must say that So, Aronian and Mame had their chance. But that doesn't mean Ding should be seeded into the Candidates because he didn't have his chance or didn't play enough games. The right mix of Quadruple Round Robin players would be the next top rated players: which coincidentally is So, Mame and Aronian. When Caruana was seeded into the candidate because he had the highest rating, he played a ton of games in competitive formats. He could easily have lost his rating playing in such tournaments. He also used up his repertoire going into the Candidates. And btw, going all out to beat Ding doesn't mean being...how shall I say it....what would a russian chess player would call it....playing principled ;) Okay, really, having such a lofty rating having played so few games is not so impressive. And people reaching the candidates should impress even if they didn't have a chance.

Okay, I still think it's better to put Karjakin in there. Let him feel the pressure. Also FIDE can make the Russian Federation guarantee Karjakin won't use the opportunity to embarrass FIDE with Putin BS propaganda by setting up criterion for removing Russian players form future competitions if Karjakin can't control his instincts. So many ways to insure the Candidates are not ... Russian propaganda. But Russia does deserve opportunity to be more than Putanic.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 4/8/2022 10:52
As I wrote somewhere else before, if any game results were fixed, they took a long time to go wrong. Ding's wins lasted an average of 51 moves. Some of his wins were quite beautiful, for instance the round five game. You have to be really good to find that win, but you have to be a genius to lose in such a way on purpose. Not just the move Bxg6 itself, but also the moves leading to it. Most games were well-fought, with Ding naturally being the much stronger player.
My guess is the other players were payed to go all out against Ding, acting as good sparring partners, while their games amongst themselves didn't matter.
Mamack1 Mamack1 4/8/2022 08:44
Words like "cheat" and "fraud" are getting thrown around a bit too liberally methinks.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 4/8/2022 08:17
@fgkdilkag - Did the Indian (I think you are referring to the American - Mishra Abhimanyu, correct?) 'cheat'? I've not heard that. Granted, the parents spent a fortune and tourneys were handpicked...but 'cheating' is a different thing. Words matter...that's why I ask.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 4/8/2022 07:37
Why did all the non-Liren games end in a draw? The actual games and this tournament should be investigated by the ethics committee. with appropriate action based on the results.

There are plenty of reasons that chess is falling into disrepute, things like this tournament, the questionable circumstances around Karjakin becoming the youngest GM, Karjakin's recent comments, the Indian GM who cheated in becoming the youngest ever GM (in his and Karjakin's case it's really the parents who orchestrated things). FIDE needs to clean up its house.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 4/8/2022 05:45
@arzi. I do...others do...but lets not argue the point...and maybe it's an language problem and subtlety.
I did NOT say the Chinese federation was in the wrong to organize something...or even that they might be suggesting to Dings opponents to 'cooperate' with their desires to get him into the Candidates.

But one would have to be blind ( or have their sense of smell be taken away by COVID... ) to look at the results and the people picked...and other things and not see considerable room for speculation. That's the odor that seems to be spreading across the chess world.
arzi arzi 4/8/2022 03:29
Leavenfish, I thought you smelled something bad? My mistake, I take everything said to me as truth. Someone had to get to play instead of Karjakin and the rules had put a certain number of games to be played. Why not organize the required number of games? However, Ding Liren has to play those games HIMSELF. The computer can't play for him. The smell of electric?

Btw, Aronian, So and Dominguez had their chance. Do you think they have been treated wrong? I would love to see Aronian or/and So playing in candidates but it will not happen. That train has already gone behind the horizon. The timeline has ended and the new one has started.
ChessTalk ChessTalk 4/7/2022 06:32
Mamaack1, So, Aronian and Mame played in highly competitive and exhausting and depleting formats. All of them lost rating points. They also played a lot of chess prior to these tournaments! Winning by rating is not a bad idea, but it needs to be on the up and up. Why didn't Ding play in the Chinese Chess Championship in 2021? Probably as tough as Russia's Super Tournament and not conducive to rating increase. So why couldn't Ding get a visa?

{Wanted to add, I almost wish FIDE would reverse it's decision to ban Karjakin. It's better than the quadruple round robin. He earned it. He's the nice person nobody likes anymore but he earned it and scorn.

So Leavenfish, copy delete repaste and edit. }
Mamack1 Mamack1 4/7/2022 05:27
And the point is surely that Aronian and others have already had their chances to qualify, which were denied to Ding but *through no fault of his own*.
ChessTalk ChessTalk 4/7/2022 05:11
A nice quadruple round robin would include: Aronian, So, Ding Liren, and Mame. All of them are nice and none of them are martyrs.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 4/7/2022 05:02
and since you can't edit these...to be clear, I mean to say, yes, they are probably 'following the rules' (whatever ones you might possibly be referring to), in that they have every right to hold these 'Benefit for Ding' tourneys.

In any case, it does make me wonder though what the talk would look like if someone in the USCF held special tourneys before the cut-off to give Aronian or So the chance to boost their ratings and get to that magic spot. I guess we will never know.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 4/7/2022 04:10
@arzi. Sorry, most of your post is beyond my simple minded understanding...and I am NOT at all saying the 'Chinese organizers are not "following the rules"...never even insinuated that so your comment is moot. I (and others) AM saying something different. Sorry, you do not seem to understand.

I notice Ding is now through 3 games of a match with Wei Yi. At least the ratings are closer so the 3 draws in the first 3 games will no him no harm, even a loss likely would not at this point.
arzi arzi 4/7/2022 06:35
To leavenfish:
3. We live in strange times, there has been a covid few years and now a war ... times that have not existed in the past for a long time and you "smell" something fishy? Every time there is always somebody who see odd things and smell something that is not from the rose. That is the world around you. If the Chinese organizers follow the rules, then Leavenfish’s fishy suspicions will not be affected at all. The rules are decisive, not the smells of fish, I hope.

Btw. Ding Liren could not have guessed that Russia would attack Ukraine and that Karjakin would let go of stupid words from his mouth and prevent himself from playing in the candidates. If Ding Liren had seen it all, wouldn't he have played the missing games before?
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 4/7/2022 12:02
I've plodden through the FIDE Handbook, but couldn't find anything that precludes the Chinese arrangement. There are some rules to prevent 'Burmese' ploys aimed at getting GM titles (the need to have foreign players in a title tournament). But you can't prevent a national federation to organise a tournament with just players of its own nationality. Most federations do this; they call it 'national championships'. You can't just say that these tournaments don't count in situations like this. I really don't see how you can capture this unwanted situation in a rule. Just change the rules for placing for the candidates; only way. In the meantime, don't blame the Chinese.
Bungle Bungle 4/6/2022 11:58
Have fun at the Shamdidates man.
Crouchyboy Crouchyboy 4/6/2022 11:38
This is a blatant example of match fixing. Every game drawn that did not involve Ding Liren?! Come on now.
Aighearach Aighearach 4/6/2022 09:42
A team effort in an individual sport will always appear inappropriate, regardless of if they found something not-prohibited, or not. The biggest problem is that all the rest of the games ended at the end of their team preparation. For that reason, this tournament should be rejected by FIDE.
Mamack1 Mamack1 4/6/2022 08:39
If its allowed under the rules, it is by definition not "fraud".
LazyKnight LazyKnight 4/6/2022 07:54
A fraud and nothing more or less!
PatrickP PatrickP 4/6/2022 07:26
That it has to be done like this is bad enough, but the other three only making draws amongst each other makes it smell very fishy...
Leavenfish Leavenfish 4/6/2022 03:47
@arzi -
1st: I was an early champion of Ding getting the vacated spot! This if he could get in the required games and that has not changed...but NOT this way! As someone said, it doesn't 'pass the smell tests'.
2nd: No, I do not. But see the example I gave which illustrates just how perilous giving someone a spot based on an old rating is in the first place.
arzi arzi 4/6/2022 03:18
Leavenfish:"But ratings are just 'snapshots in time'."

So are moves and games. So what? Do you think Ding Liren has forgotten how to play chess? Is timeline enough for those needed games, that is the real question.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 4/6/2022 03:05
@AgainAgain - you say "Rating is still way more fair than getting qualified through a "random" tournament."

But ratings are just 'snapshots in time'. Think about it: Alireza was not even in the top 10 1 yr ago (13th). Ding hasn't really played rated standard games in a year (save for this 'tournament'). See the contradiction in allowing simply 'the highest rated' for the remaining spot? Particularly with a handpicked tournament of fellow Chinese players where the results sure look...'fishy'.
Stupido Stupido 4/6/2022 01:26
This is going down in history as one of the funniest tournaments ever.
arzi arzi 4/6/2022 12:50
HolaAmigo:"Rules are often stupid, and need to be overrulled."

Rules may be stupid but if you overrule them then it is no point to have any rules at all. Without the rules the world is full of chaos. If you start making the rules you should first sit down and think about them.
arzi arzi 4/6/2022 10:45
psamant:"It couldn't be more clear cut that this is a fraud to get Ding into the candidates."

What fraud? Ding Liren is playing himself without the help of computer. Nonsense. If China wants to organize enough competitions for Ding Liren, that's okay. However, he has to play those games. If Ding Liren loses to a weaker player, a couple hundred points, then he will also lose points from his elo rating. Aronian and So had their chance.
HolaAmigo HolaAmigo 4/6/2022 10:43
Rules are often stupid, and need to be overrulled.
psamant psamant 4/6/2022 09:40
Conspiracy theories... smells bad??? I disagree. It couldn't be more clear cut that this is a fraud to get Ding into the candidates. I love Ding's games and am happy for him. But rules were defined upfront and, by unfortunate circumstances, they worked against Ding. This does not give anyone the license to break rules and come up with this joke. It is patently unfair to Aronian and So who have adopted no such unethical means to get into the candidates. I love their games too and feel for them.
arzi arzi 4/6/2022 09:11
I agree with you, AgainAgain. Ding Liren has the strength to fight for WC. He has to first get into the Candidates.
Pionki Pionki 4/6/2022 09:08
There's always a way to go around the rules. If FIDE is OK with this, I don't blame the Chinese.
AgainAgain AgainAgain 4/6/2022 08:14
Rating is still way more fair than getting qualified through a "random" tournament. Ding Liren have 2799 achieved by years of good results. That should count more than someone coming second in a Swiss Lottery type tournament...
Peter B Peter B 4/6/2022 06:04
This sort of thing is exactly why rating was removed as a qualifying method. It would more sense to take reserve(s) from the Grand Prix.

That said, this COVID situation is exceptional and I don't begrudge Ding the chance to play in the Candidates. But hopefully next time, reserves will not be taken from the rating list.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 4/6/2022 02:45
Yes, I have to agree with Ajeeb007, it "smells bad". A quickly arranged tourney with NON-CHINESE players would have been the honorable approach in everyone's eyes. Even more so would be to include Aronian and perhaps So as they are 'right there' as concerns rating and are the ones who stand to lose...but that would be too much to ask (?).

And then there is the lopsided result....which pretty much HAD to happen to ensure Ding kept his rating edge over Aronian and So.

I've no dog in the hunt...but conspiracy theorist will have a field day with this for years to come.