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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Carlsen was very gracious in his post-game interview, saying that the better player on the day had won.

And Garry Kasparov was effusive in his praise for the Chinese GM.

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.


  1. 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.

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