Ding, Nepo and Rapport to face off in Romania

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/4/2023 – Almost immediately after playing a gruelling three-week match, world champion Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi will play a 9-round single round-robin in Bucharest, the Superbet Chess Classic. The first event of this year’s Grand Chess Tour, it will also see Richard Rapport, Ding’s second in Astana, among the participants. A star-studded field includes the likes of Alireza Firouzja, Fabiano Caruana and defending champion Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

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No rest for the weary

Two out of the five events organized this year by the Grand Chess Tour are classical tournaments. The inaugural event is the Superbet Chess Classic, a 10-player single round robin set to take place on May 6-14 at the Grand Hotel Bucharest. Just six days after wrapping up a legendary match in Astana, Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi will compete again in a strong, elite tournament.

Remarkably, Ding’s second Richard Rapport will also be among the participants. In a recent interview for Spain’s El País, Ding emphasized that Rapport had played a key role in his winning the most important title in chess. According to Ding, Rapport, who now represents Romania, “brought all the creativity that I was lacking with my openings”.

While fatigue is likely to affect all three players (a second’s job during a World Championship match is no easy task), their theoretical preparation will be difficult to match. In addition, it is likely that all three, including Nepo, will feel more relaxed than their colleagues in Bucharest, having dealt with perhaps the most difficult challenge of their careers last month.

Ding Liren, Richard Rapport

Team Ding in Astana | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Ian Nepomniachtchi

Ian Nepomniachtchi’s bold playing style and grace in defeat gained him many fans all over the world | Photo: FIDE / Anna Shtourman

The trio will be joined by seven first-rate, rested grandmasters (no big tournaments were organized parallel to the match in Astana). We list them below, with their last performance in a classical individual tournament:

  • Alireza Firouzja (FRA, 2785): Sinquefield Cup 2022, 5/8 points, winner (after beating Nepo in tiebreaks
  • Anish Giri (NED, 2768): WR Chess Masters 2023, 4/9 points, 5th-10th place
  • Fabiano Caruana (USA, 2764): Tata Steel Masters 2023, 7/13 points, 5th-6th place
  • Wesley So (USA, 2760): WR Chess Masters 2023, 4½/9 points, 4th place
  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA, 2742): Sinquefield Cup 2022, 3/8 points, 8th-9th place
  • Jan-Krzysztof Duda (POL, 2724): WR Chess Masters 2023, 4/9 points, 5th-10th place
  • Bogdan-Daniel Deac (ROU, 2700): Deutschland Grand Prix 2022, 4/6 points, 2nd place

The time control in Bucharest will be 90 minutes for 40 moves, 30 minutes for the rest of the game, plus 30-second increments from move one. A total prize fund of $350,000 will be up for grabs, with $100,000 reserved for the winner. Grand Chess Tour points will also be awarded.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave outscored Wesley So and Levon Aronian in rapid playoffs to win the 2022 edition | Photo: Lennart Ootes

All games - 2022 edition

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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.