Ding wins Sinquefield Cup

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

7th Sinquefield Cup 2019
Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Aug. 15-30, 2019

Final Standings (GM all)

1–2. Ding Liren CHN 2805, Magnus Carlsen NOR 2882, 6.5/11

3–4. Viswanathan Anand IND 2756, Sergey Karjakin RUS 2750, 6.0/11

5–8. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov AZE 2764, Anish Giri NED 2779, Fabiano Caruana USA 2818, Ian Nepomniachtchi RUS 2774, 5.5/11

9–10. Hikaru Nakamura USA 2743, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2778, 5.0/11

11–12. Levon Aronian ARM 2765, Wesley So USA 2776, 4.5/11

Average ELO 2783 Category 22

Time Control: 130 minutes for the entire game with 30 seconds delay before clock starts on every move starting move 1

Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren both won two games each and drew nine to tie for first in the 7th Sinquefield Cup tournament held in its headquarters at the Saint Louis Chess Club in Saint Louis, Missouri. According to the rules the tie had to be broken via two-game matches.

Magnus Carlsen was the heavy favorite here due to his almost perfect record in high-pressure tie-breaks with fast time controls. If you will recall, back in 2007 (when he was only 16 years old) Magnus participated in the Candidates Tournament for the FIDE World Chess Championship 2007, facing Levon Aronian in a six-game match at standard time controls. At this point of his career Aronian was ranked no. 5 in the world and not expected to have any difficulty beating the outsider but Carlsen drew (+2−2=2) by coming from behind twice. The four-game rapid playoff was drawn as well (+1−1=2), with Carlsen winning the last game to stay in the match. Eventually, Aronian eliminated Carlsen from the tournament after winning both tiebreak blitz games.

That was 12 years ago. Since then Carlsen became World Chess Champion in 2013 (by defeating Viswanathan Anand) and won both the 2014 World Rapid Championship and World Blitz Championship, becoming the first player in history to hold all three titles simultaneously.

From 2007 till now Carlsen had figured in 10 playoff matches and won them all — this includes 3-0 versus Caruana to settle their 2018 world championship match and 3-1 versus Karjakin in the 2016 version of the same world championship. Also, in the online site there was a Champion’s Showdown two years ago, a combination rapid and blitz event pitting Carlsen versus Ding — the Norwegian really crushed his foe 22-8 with 16 wins, only two losses and 12 draws.

Ding Liren though is no slouch himself. He finishes consistently high in rapid/blitz events and back in July 2016, with a blitz rating of 2875, he was the highest rated blitz player in the world, 2016 is ancient history already? Well, consider this — in the Saint Louis Rapid/Blitz event held just two weeks earlier he finished tied for second a full 4.5 points ahead of Carlsen who was in sixth place.

1st Tiebreak: Two games of rapid (25 minutes for the entire game with 10 second delay before clock starts)

Ding Liren versus Magnus Carlsen drew both games.

2nd Tiebreak: Two games of blitz (five minutes for the entire game with three second delay before clock starts

Ding won the first game on time in a much better position and then forced Magnus to resign the second game one move away from mate.

Carlsen, Magnus (2882) — Ding, Liren (2805) [C84]
7th Sinquefield Cup TB Saint Louis USA (4), 29.08.2019

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 Na5 9.Bc2 c5 10.d4 cxd4 11.cxd4 0–0 12.h3 Re8 13.d5 Bd7 14.Nc3 Qb8 15.Bd3 Rc8 16.Ne2 Nb7 17.g4 Nc5 18.Ng3 Nxd3 19.Qxd3 b4 20.Re1 Qb5 21.Qd1 Rc7 22.Be3 Rac8 23.Nd2 g6 24.b3 Qb7 25.Nc4 Bb5 26.Na5 Qb8 27.Qd2 Rc3 28.a3!?

Setting a small trap …


Which Black falls into, losing the exchange.

29.Nc6 Bxc6!

Ding makes the most of it, and in fact gets full compensation as his light-squared bishop becomes quite powerful.

30.Qxc3 Bxd5 31.Qa5

Ding remarked that he had missed this move. “First I thought it was a free pawn on e4 but then I saw he could play g5. Then I found the idea of Ba8.” What idea of Ba8? You will soon see.

31…Bxe4 32.g5 Ba8!

This is the Ba8 move referred to earlier. It was instantly played and comes with the deadly threat of …Qb7 threatening mate along the long diagonal.


Preventing …Qb7.

33…Nd5 34.Ba7 Qc7! 35.Rec1 Qxc1+?!

Best was 35…Nc3, but then it would deprive us of the brilliant finish.

36.Rxc1 Rxc1+ 37.Kh2 Bc6 38.Qxa3 Bxg5 39.Qxd6 Bf4! 40.Bc5 Ne7! 0–1

Brilliant. after 40…Ne7 41.Qxe7 Rh1# Ding: “If I didn’t have Ne7 then maybe I am lost.”

The spell is broken, and Magnus has finally lost a tiebreaker.

Carlsen was a gracious loser, commenting afterwards that Ding “was a lot better than I was today so he won absolutely deservedly.” He continued “It has something to do obviously with the fact that he’s a very good player, but yeah, clearly I had a very difficult day today. I couldn’t get anything going, I was thinking too long and mainly just defending in most of my games, so it wasn’t close.”

Ding’s best game in the tournament was against Anish Giri. Even such a hard-to-please commentator like former world champion Garry Kasparov called it a “positional masterpiece.”

Ding, Liren (2805) — Giri, Anish (2779) [D38]
7th Sinquefield Cup 2019 Saint Louis USA (5.4), 21.08.2019

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4

As most BW readers know, 4…Be7 is the Orthodox Queen’s Gambit Declined and 4…c6 the Semi-Slav. Putting the bishop on b4 is the Ragozin which has lately become very popular in the tournament circuit.

5.Bg5 h6

International Master Richard Pert wrote a book on Playing the Ragozin where he advises Black to go into the Vienna Variation with 5…dxc4 6.e4 c5, especially when you have a weak opponent or need a win. The reason is that after the text move White has a drawing option which I will show you in a while.

6.Bxf6 Qxf6 7.Qa4+

If White is satisfied with half a point then 7.e3 0–0 8.Rc1 dxc4 9.Bxc4 c5 10.0–0 cxd4 11.Nxd4 Bd7 12.Qb3 Nc6 13.Nxc6 Bxc3 14.Rxc3 Bxc6 15.Bb5 Bd5 16.Bc4 Bc6 17.Bb5 with an immediate draw.

7…Nc6 8.e3 0–0 9.Rc1 Rd8 10.Be2 dxc4 11.Bxc4 Bxc3+ 12.bxc3 Bd7 13.Be2 e5 14.Qc2 Bf5 15.Qb2 e4 16.Nd2 Na5 17.0–0 c5 18.Rfd1 Rac8 19.Nf1 Bg6 20.Ng3 Qg5 21.Qb1 f5 22.dxc5 Rxc5

It looks like White’s c3–pawn is doomed, right?

23.Rd4 Bf7

The Chessbase website says that Black’s troubles started with this move.

24.Rcd1 Rdc8 25.Bb5!

A powerful refocusing of his bishop’s energy. Ding intends to bring it to b3.


Another point behind White’s last move is that 25…Rxc3 is met by 26.Bd7 followed by Bxf5. Black cannot play 26…R8c5? 27.Bxf5 Rxf5 28.Nxe4 forking Black’s queen and rook.

26.Ne2 Qf6 27.Ba4 Qe5 28.Bb3

Black has nothing better than to capture the bishop with his knight, which repairs White’s pawn weakness on c3.

28…Nxb3 29.axb3 R5c7 30.c4 a6

Black could have played 30…b5! right awey. He will regret this decision later.

31.Nf4! b5 32.Nd5 Rc6 33.c5! <D>

Position after 33.c5

Overlooked by Black. He cannot take the pawn now because 33…Rxc5 34.Nb6 R8c7 35.Nd7 forks the queen and rook.

33…a5 34.b4 axb4 35.Qxb4 Rb8 36.Nb6

Once again threatening Nd7.

36…Be6 37.Nd7!

Putting a rook on the 7th rank, after which the end is near.

37…Bxd7 38.Rd5 Qe7 39.Rxd7 Qxc5 40.Qb3+ Qc4 41.Qb2 Qc3 42.Qa2+ Rc4

[42…Qc4 43.Qa7 White has a mating attack: 43…Re8 44.Rg7+ Kf8 45.Rh7 Qg8 46.Qa3+ etc]


White can of course play 43.Qa7 right away, but Black is completely defenseless now and this move just highlights it.

43…Rbc8 44.R1d6! Kf8 45.Rxg6 b4 46.Rxh6 f4 47.gxf4 1–0

With 48.Qa7 coming Giri decides to give up the ghost.

We will continue our story on Thursday.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.