2023 World Chess Championship: Game 2

2023 World Chess Championship

Astana, Kazakhstan (April 7th-May 1st)

Game 2: Nepomniachtchi pulls ahead with convincing win
Match Score: 1½-½
Official Site: https://worldchampionship.fide.com/

2023 World Chess Championship: Game 2
Monday, 10 April 2023

Ding gives lackluster performance, loses badly

Game 2 of the World Chess Championship raised questions about the tone of the match. Ding Liren held off Ian Nepomniachtchi but was shaky. Looking at Ding Liren in the press conference after Game 1, one could see that something was wrong with his mental preparation. He spoke of being “depressed” and that he had a lot of emotions in his head.

Ding Liren embroiled in thought, but which thoughts?
Photo by Stev Bonhage

Ding Liren embroiled in thought, but which thoughts?
Photo by Stev Bonhage

This is not a good recipe for success in chess, despite having his parents in Kazakhstan for support. His shocking admission did raise the question of why China did not seem to send adequate assistance (nor an interpreter) to make him feel more at ease.

Ding mentioned that he switched hotels to feel more comfortable, but others speculate that he felt overwhelmed by the environment and the presence of the Russian entourage. Perhaps it was a wise move, but of course, it raises questions about his psychological preparation.

Yesterday, Nepomniachtchi responded to a question by Mike Klein that his team did nothing different after finding out that the hypercreative Richard Rapport had joined Ding’s team. In Game 2, Ding had the white pieces and opted for 4.h3!? a move he mentioned was found by his team. It received a lot of comments, but mostly quizzical looks, including from opponent, Ian Nepomniachtchi.

The downfall appeared to be the fateful exchange after 12.Nxf6? giving black a very dynamic position after 12…gxf6! including an open g-file and active play with the bishops after 19…f5!

The pawn on h3 now appears as a glaring mistake because on Rg8 is much riskier to play g3. If that wasn’t enough, black also had pressure on the queenside with connected b- and c-pawns. There was such chaos in the white camp that both sides of the board were on fire. Ding want to throw obstacles in the path of black pieces, but after 21.Bg5, black immediately played 21…Rxg5! In a few moves you could see the black pieces moving up the board like the old video game “Space Invaders.”

Black exerts total control on both sides of the board!

From the above position, Ding had no counterplay as the white queen was immobile and the rooks had not scope. Not even an exchange sacrifice (xd6) would hold the position. Ding resigned on move 29. The rest day will be timely so that he can settle into the match and get his bearings.

GM Daniel King had perhaps the most interesting comment.

Please check out my game report (should be posted soon) where I explain some of the nuances behind 4 h3. I think it is great that this kind of creativity is on display in a World Championship match. To my mind the operation was a success, but regrettably the patient died.

Press Conference conducted by Keti Tsatsalashvili
Photo by Anna_Shtourman/FIDE

Video by FIDE Chess
Video by Daniel King (PowerPlay Chess)

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