Ding Liren Wins 2019 Sinquefield Cup

Ding Liren, Rex Sinquefield (photo Crystal Fuller)

In what must surely figure as the most significant win in his young career, Ding Liren defeated Magnus Carlsen in a playoff Thursday at the 2019 Sinquefield Cup, taking the title and trophy after he and Carlsen tied for first place with 6.5 points. Ding wins $82,500 for his win, along with 16.5 points in the Grand Chess Tour standings.

courtesy STLCC

While Carlsen will certainly be disappointed in his loss in the blitz playoff, his play in the final two rounds of the tournament perhaps signifies his overcoming the malaise that affected his play in Saint Louis. A diffident result in the Rapid and Blitz was followed by nine consecutive draws in the first nine rounds of the Sinquefield Cup. But a final round victory over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, coupled with his Round 10 win over Wesley So, propelled Carlsen into shared first place with Ding and the rapid / blitz playoffs.

[pgn] [Event "7th Sinquefield Cup 2019"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.08.28"] [Round "11.2"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B31"] [WhiteElo "2778"] [BlackElo "2882"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2019.08.17"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. Bxc6 bxc6 5. d4 cxd4 6. Qxd4 f6 7. O-O d6 8. c4 c5 9. Qd3 Bg7 10. b3 Nh6 11. Nc3 Rb8 12. Bd2 O-O 13. Rae1 Nf7 14. h4 Rb7 15. h5 g5 16. Nh2 Ne5 17. Qg3 Kh8 18. f4 gxf4 19. Bxf4 Rg8 20. Re3 Nc6 21. Qf2 f5 22. Nf3 $2 {MVL must have missed Carlsen's idea here.} (22. exf5 $11) 22... Bxc3 (22... Bd4 $2 23. e5 $1 Bxe3 24. Qxe3 {and it's White who is attacking}) 23. Rxc3 e5 24. Rd3 $1 {The best response under the circumstances.} ({If} 24. Bd2 f4 {and Black's pieces swarm to the White king.}) 24... exf4 25. Qb2+ Rbg7 26. h6 fxe4 27. Rd2 (27. hxg7+ Rxg7 28. Rd2 exf3 29. Rxf3 Nd4) 27... exf3 28. hxg7+ Rxg7 29. Rxf3 {Black has two pieces and a pawn for the rook, coupled with the initiative. MVL does his best to tie Carlsen's pieces up, but his resistance is ultimately futile.} Qg5 30. Rdf2 Nd4 31. Rxf4 Bf5 32. b4 Be6 33. Rf8+ Bg8 34. bxc5 dxc5 35. Qb8 Qe3 36. Qd6 Qc1+ 37. Kh2 Qg5 38. Qd5 Qh4+ (38... Qxd5 $2 39. cxd5 Rd7 40. Rc8 $17) 39. Kg1 Qe7 40. Qh5 Qe3 41. Qh4 Ne2+ 42. Kh1 Qc1+ 43. Rf1 Ng3+ 44. Kg1 Qe3+ 0-1 [/pgn]

Ding, who lead the tournament by half a point heading into the final round, could only draw against a determined Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

[pgn] [Event "7th Sinquefield Cup 2019"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.08.28"] [Round "11.1"] [White "Ding, Liren"] [Black "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D74"] [WhiteElo "2805"] [BlackElo "2764"] [PlyCount "104"] [EventDate "2019.08.17"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nc3 c5 6. Nf3 d5 7. dxc5 Qa5 8. O-O dxc4 9. Qd4 Nc6 10. Qxc4 Be6 11. Qh4 Qxc5 12. Be3 Qa5 13. Nd4 Nxd4 14. Qxd4 Nd5 15. Qc5 Qxc5 16. Bxc5 Rfc8 17. Bxd5 Rxc5 18. Bxe6 fxe6 19. Rfd1 Rac8 20. Rd7 R8c7 21. Rad1 Bxc3 22. Rxc7 Rxc7 23. bxc3 Kf7 24. Rb1 e5 25. Kf1 b6 26. Rb3 Rc5 27. a4 Ra5 28. Rb4 Rc5 29. Rb3 Rc4 30. Ra3 Ke6 31. Ke1 Kd5 32. Kd2 e4 33. Ra1 g5 34. Kc2 Ke5 35. a5 b5 36. a6 b4 37. Ra5+ Kf6 38. Rb5 Rxc3+ 39. Kd2 Ra3 40. Rxb4 e3+ 41. fxe3 Rxa6 42. h4 h6 43. hxg5+ Kxg5 44. Re4 Kf6 45. Rh4 Kf5 46. Rf4+ Ke5 47. g4 e6 48. Rf7 Ra2+ 49. Kd3 Ra3+ 50. Kd2 Ra2+ 51. Kd3 Ra3+ 52. Kd2 Ra2+ 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
So chess fans were treated to another day of chess, and a matchup that some were promoting as a possible preview of a 2020 World Championship. Carlsen had to be considered the prohibitive favorite given his track record in tiebreaks, as Norwegian journalist Tarjei J. Svensen noted. https://twitter.com/TarjeiJS/status/1166829061408264198 Regulations called for the players to contest two rapid games (G/25 with a 10 second delay) followed by up to three sets of two blitz games (G/5 with a 3 second delay) to determine a winner; if they were still tied after these eight games, matters were left to the Chief Arbiter’s “discretion.”

Already in the rapid games, both of which were drawn, it was clear that Ding was outplaying the World Champion. Carlsen had to struggle to hold Game 1, burning about seven and a half minutes on move 14 in an already tricky position, and ultimately wrangling up a blocked position where neither side could make progress.

[pgn] [Event "7th Sinquefield Cup TB"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.08.29"] [Round "1"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Ding, Liren"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E01"] [WhiteElo "2882"] [BlackElo "2805"] [PlyCount "68"] [EventDate "2019.08.29"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. g3 dxc4 6. Ne5 Nbd7 7. Nxc4 b5 8. Ne5 Nxe5 9. dxe5 Qxd1+ 10. Kxd1 Nd5 11. Ne4 Bb7 12. Bg2 c5 13. Bd2 Be7 14. Rc1 c4 15. Kc2 O-O-O 16. Rhd1 f5 17. Nd6+ Bxd6 18. exd6 Rxd6 19. Bxd5 exd5 20. Bc3 Re8 21. e3 g5 22. Rd4 Re4 23. Rh1 Rh6 24. h4 Kd7 25. a3 g4 26. Rxe4 fxe4 27. b4 Ra6 28. Kb2 h5 29. Rd1 Ke6 30. Rd2 Bc6 31. Bd4 Be8 32. Bc3 Bc6 33. Bd4 Be8 34. Bc3 Bc6 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
The blitz games were all Ding Liren. He missed a nearly winning move in Game 1 of the Blitz (42.g5!) but kept the pressure on, and Carlsen flagged on his 87th move.
[pgn] [Event "7th Sinquefield Cup TB"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.08.29"] [Round "3"] [White "Ding, Liren"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A13"] [WhiteElo "2805"] [BlackElo "2882"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "174"] [EventDate "2019.08.29"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. g3 e6 3. Bg2 d5 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. Qa4+ Nbd7 6. Qxc4 a6 7. Qc2 c5 8. Nc3 Qc7 9. d4 cxd4 10. Nxd4 Bc5 11. Nb3 Bd6 12. O-O O-O 13. Rd1 Be5 14. Be3 Nd5 15. Bxd5 exd5 16. Rac1 Nf6 17. Nxd5 Nxd5 18. Rxd5 Qxc2 19. Rxc2 Bf6 20. Nc5 Re8 21. Bd4 Be7 22. Re5 f6 23. Re3 Bf5 24. Rd2 Bxc5 25. Rxe8+ Rxe8 26. Bxc5 Rc8 27. b4 a5 28. a3 axb4 29. axb4 Rc7 30. f3 Rd7 31. Ra2 h5 32. Kf2 Kf7 33. h4 Be6 34. Ra8 b5 35. e4 Bc4 36. Ke3 Rd3+ 37. Kf4 Rd7 38. Rh8 Kg6 39. g4 hxg4 40. fxg4 Kf7 41. h5 Bb3 42. e5 fxe5+ 43. Kxe5 Rd5+ 44. Kf4 Rd1 45. Rf8+ Ke6 46. Re8+ Kf7 47. Rf8+ Ke6 48. Kg5 Bc2 49. Re8+ Kf7 50. Re7+ Kg8 51. Rb7 Rd5+ 52. Kh4 Bd3 53. g5 Rd8 54. g6 Bc4 55. Kg5 Rd5+ 56. Kf4 Rd8 57. Bd6 Be2 58. Be5 Bxh5 59. Kg5 Be2 60. Rxg7+ Kf8 61. Rf7+ Ke8 62. Kf6 Bc4 63. Rh7 Rd1 64. Re7+ Kd8 65. Ra7 Rf1+ 66. Kg7 Ke8 67. Bf6 Re1 68. Kh8 Rh1+ 69. Kg7 Re1 70. Rb7 Re2 71. Ra7 Re1 72. Rc7 Re2 73. Ra7 Re1 74. Ra3 Re2 75. Ra8+ Kd7 76. Kf8 Rf2 77. Kg7 Rg2 78. Rd8+ Ke6 79. Re8+ Kd7 80. Re5 Kd6 81. Re3 Kd7 82. Re7+ Kd6 83. Re3 Kd7 84. Kh6 Rh2+ 85. Kg7 Rg2 86. Bd4 Rg4 87. Bc5 Rg2 {Black flagged} 1-0 [/pgn]
While a draw would have been sufficient for the tiebreak victory, Ding pulled a rabbit out of his hat in the second game, finding two beautiful moves to win the game and the Sinquefield Cup title. https://twitter.com/GrandChessTour/status/1167127384715341825
[pgn] [Event "7th Sinquefield Cup TB"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.08.29"] [Round "4"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Ding, Liren"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C84"] [WhiteElo "2882"] [BlackElo "2805"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2019.08.29"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 Na5 9. Bc2 c5 10. d4 cxd4 11. cxd4 O-O 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 bxa3 29. Nc6 Bxc6 30. Qxc3 Bxd5 31. Qa5 Bxe4 32. g5 Ba8 $1 (32... Bd8 33. Qxa3 Ba8 {is also playable}) 33. Qxa6 {Short of time, Carlsen slips.} (33. gxf6 Qb7 34. Kf1 Bd8 $132 {at least sufficient for the draw by perpetual}) (33. Qxa3 $2 Qb7 $19) 33... Nd5 34. Ba7 Qc7 35. Rec1 Qxc1+ (35... Bc6 $5) 36. Rxc1 Rxc1+ 37. Kh2 Bc6 38. Qxa3 Bxg5 39. Qxd6 Bf4 40. Bc5 Ne7 $1 {A fine move, pushing White's mate threat back a move, while threatening ...Rh1! (Note that the knight on g3 can't take on h1 as it is pinned.)} 0-1 [/pgn]
Carlsen was very gracious in his post-game interview, saying that the better player on the day had won. https://twitter.com/GrandChessTour/status/1167130533710716929 And Garry Kasparov was effusive in his praise for the Chinese GM. https://twitter.com/Kasparov63/status/1167132048051453952 The win puts Ding into second place behind Carlsen in the current Grand Chess Tour standings. Two events – the Superbet Rapid & Blitz (Bucharest, Romania) and the Tata Steel Indian Rapid & Blitz (Kolkata, India) – are still to play. The top four placed Tour finishers qualify for the 2019 GCT Finals, held as part of the London Chess Classic in early December.

courtesy STLCC

Up next in Saint Louis is the Champions 960 tournament, where Garry Kasparov will return to chess once more in a 960 matchup against Fabiano Caruana. In the remaining three pairings, Wesley So will play Veselin Topalov, Leinier Domingues meets Peter Svidler, and Hikaru Nakamura takes on Levon Aronian. The event starts on September 2nd and runs through the 5th.


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ding!!! This boy has potential!!!!!! Magnus (usually a soreloser) was so impressed by the final blitz position that he had to smile back at Ding during the handshake. Rather rare for Magnus when he loses a big game.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Great playoff victory for ding , congratulations

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