World Championship Game 6: Ding plays the London, bounces right back

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/16/2023 – In the third consecutive decisive game of the World Championship match, Ding Liren played the London System and beat Ian Nepomniachtchi to once again even the score in Astana. Nepo described the game as one of his worst ever, while Ding confessed that he had not prepared the line that appeared on the board. Game 7 will take place on Tuesday. | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

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Jumping between openings

Find expert commentary — video and game annotations — by well-known coach and author IM Robert Ris at the end of the article.

The pendulum continues to swing at the World Championship match, as Ding Liren recovered from Saturday’s loss by collecting a win from the white side of a London System to again level the score in Astana. This was the third consecutive game with a decisive result, and the second consecutive game that saw one of the players dominating with the white pieces.

Not only did both contenders get clear wins with white, but they did it after playing similar themes, with h4-h5 the recurring idea of the weekend. Vishy Anand, one of the few players in the world who got to play multiple matches for the title, is certainly enjoying the spectacle:

As Daniel King noted, the players adopted a strategy of jumping between different openings instead of challenging their opponent to try to find small cracks in a single system that has been studied extensively. Even a long-time elite analyst like Erwin l’Ami has been struggling to predict the first move in each of the games. 

While some pundits, like Romain Edouard, have been critical of the quality of the games, the entertainment value has surely increased compared to preview matches. And, as grandmaster Eugene Perelshteyn noted, there is plenty to learn from each of the encounters as well.

For a second consecutive time, Ding will get to enjoy a rest day right after scoring a win, a situation described by Anand as “the best feeling ever”. Since Tuesday’s encounter will mark the half point of the 14-game match, the players will get another rest day on Wednesday.

Ian Nepomniachtchi

Time to regroup | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

“One of my worst games ever”

In the post-game press conference, a satisfied Ding mentioned that he was not sure which opening to play on Sunday. Understandably, he opted for one of the weapons he knows best, the London System. Despite being one of his strong suits from the white side, though, he confessed that he had not prepared the specific line that appeared on the board.

Feeling more at home in the position did help, as Nepo spent more time in the opening, trying to find precise move orders in a configuration full of subtleties. Ding deviated from theory on move 12, and perhaps the most critical point of the game was reached ten moves later.


White is already in the driver’s seat here, and an impatient Nepo decided to make an extremely committing decision to get back in the game, one that was thus described by commentator Daniil Dubov: “22...e5 is either a very good move or White is just winning”.

The latter evaluation turned out to be true, as Ding went on to find a number of precise manoeuvres to increase his advantage — he lifted his a-rook, and offered a couple of pawn sacrifices in order to activate his army. 

This is how the position looked after move 32:


Black did get a passer on the a-file, but White is ready to create deadly threats on the kingside with his well-coordinated queen, rook, knight and h-pawn (the outside pawn playing a big role for a second day in a row).

Nepo’s position quickly went from bad to worse, with the Russian later lamenting, “I guess I played one of my worst games ever. Nearly every move was bad”.

By move 42, there was no hope for Black. Ding had found a devastating combination.


Olimpiu di Luppi clipped the deciding sequence, and captioned it in style: “The raw emotions of a true genius. [...]  Ding Liren has found an amazing finish”.

Black resigned instead of allowing White to demonstrate the winning idea on the board — a remarkable queen sacrifice that led to a forced mate.


It is Black to move, but there is nothing he can do to effectively prevent the queen from capturing on g8 next, winning the game on the spot.

  • 44.-- 45.Qxg8+ Kxg8 46.Ra8+ Kf7 47.Rf8#
  • 44...Bxg6 45.hxg6+ Kh8 46.Qxg8+ Kxg8 47.Ra8#

Ding Liren

Relieved — Ding Liren leaves the stage right after levelling the score of the match for a second time (in only six games!) | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris - Video and annotated game



FIDE World Chess Championship 2023

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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.