Grandmaster Chef: Ding Liren

by Alexey Root
11/14/2020 – China’s top-ranked player, and number 3 in the world, Grandmaster Ding Liren has twice been a Candidate, first in 2018 and again in 2020. National Master Mike Walder annotates Liren-Caruana from the 2020 Candidates Tournament and presents a recipe for a dish that Liren might enjoy. WIM Alexey Root tells why Liren is a Grandmaster Chef honoree. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Altibox Norway Chess

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One tough cookie

The expression “one tough cookie” means a person who is physically and emotionally strong. Grandmaster Ding Liren demonstrated that he is a tough cookie, and a tough cook, on May 31, 2018, the first rest day for that year’s Altibox Norway Chess. On the afternoon of May 31st, Liren fractured his hip while on a bicycle ride. Despite being in pain, Liren participated in the players’ cooking contest. Liren and his assigned cooking partner, former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand, won the contest. After the cooking victory, Liren was hospitalized for surgery and had to withdraw from the tournament.

Ding Liren

Liren’s positive attitude surely helped him win the cooking contest | Photo: Lennart Ootes

China’s best

Liren is the first player from China to qualify for the Candidates Tournament, whose winner becomes the Challenger for the World Chess Championship. However, China in general, and Liren’s hometown of Wenzhou in particular, is known for Women’s World Chess Champions.

As reported by International Master Sagah Shah in ChessBase, Liren said, “I was four years old when my mother and their friends decided that their kids should learn chess. So they took us to a chess club. Wenzhou is a chess city in China. Former women’s World Champion Zhu Chen is from Wenzhou and also the [1995] match between [then-Women’s World Champion] Xie Jun and [former World Chess Championship Challenger Viktor] Korchnoi took place in the city. There is a good atmosphere to study chess here. I had the same initial coaches as Zhu Chen had.”

Liren is the top-ranked player in China and one of two Chinese players (the other is Grandmaster Wang Hao) in the 2020 Candidates Tournament. Liren is a three-time Chinese Champion. Next for Liren is the Champions Chess Tour (online November 2020 to September 2021), starting with the Skilling Open on November 22.

Ding Liren

Little Liren after winning the Li Chengzhi Cup | Photo: Ding Liren’s archives

Undefeated streak

Before World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen’s 125-game undefeated streak, which ended when Carlsen lost to Grandmaster Jan-Krzysztof Duda on October 10, 2020, Liren held the record for the most consecutive classical games played without a loss, 100, from August 2017 to November 2018 (+29 -0 =71).

During his undefeated streak, Liren completed his law degree at Peking University. As reported in ChessBase, Liren stated, “I study law. I would have graduated from the university by July. However, I still have one class that has to be completed. So, I think I will go back to the university in October [2017] and finish my pending class.”

The recipe

Liren mentioned noodles in the previously-cited ChessBase interview. Liren said, “You know when Wei Yi was here [for the 2017 World Cup] we sometimes would just have instant noodles and we were very happy having that.” When his mother cooked for him at the 2017 Moscow FIDE Grand Prix, which Liren won, she made “simple noodles or rice.” Mike Walder presents “Fish Fillet Chow Fun,” a recipe for a dish with rice noodles.


Fish fillet chow fun by Mike Walder

Ingredients

  • Wide or stir-fry sized rice noodles, 16 ounces
  • Cod, 1 pound, cut into bite-sized pieces 
  • Ginger, 1/2-inch, peeled and chopped 
  • Mushrooms, 1 cup
  • Celery, one stalk cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • Baby broccoli, 1 cup florets
  • Three green onions, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • Peanut oil (or some other light-tasting oil if you do not use peanut)
  • Vegetable stock, 3/4 cup
  • Bean sauce, 1/2 Tablespoon
  • Tapioca, 1 teaspoon mixed with 2 teaspoons of vegetable stock

Directions

  1. Blanche the fish by submerging into a pot of boiling water. Immediately remove from heat and let sit in the hot water for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Reconstitute the rice noodles per instructions on your noodle package, unless you bought wet noodles.
  3. Get your dry wok or skillet extremely hot before adding 2 Tablespoons of peanut oil.
  4. Sear the wet rice noodles; stir until the ends start to caramelize, roughly 2 minutes. Remove the noodles and let rest in a bowl.
  5. Add 3 Tablespoons of peanut oil and ginger, start stirring.
  6. Once you can smell the ginger, at about 15 seconds, reduce to high heat, continue stirring.
  7. In roughly 2 minutes, add mushrooms, celery, and green onions, continue stirring.
  8. In roughly 2 minutes, add baby broccoli, continue stirring.
  9. In another 2 minutes, add the fish fillets and the rice noodles.
  10. In 1 minute, add bean sauce and vegetable stock by pouring the stock down the side of the wok or skillet. Stir until bean sauce is incorporated.
  11. Add tapioca mixture, stir everything together as gravy thickens.
  12. Serves 3.

Mike Walder

Liren v. Caruana after 26...b5 with ‘fish fillet chow fun’ on the side | Photo: Elliott Winslow


The game

In the 2020 Candidates, Liren defeated former World Chess Championship Challenger Fabiano Caruana. During his post-game interview, Liren mentioned he was behind more than one hour on the clock after the opening because Caruana was in his preparation. Liren first felt his position was “much better” after he played 27. Qg3. National Master Mike Walder annotates the game.

 

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Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.
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Dan Durham Dan Durham 11/16/2020 12:42
I've been to his restaurant. The Baked Labrador in Brown Sauce is simply delicious.
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