World Chess title heads into rapid-play tiebreak
The World Chess Championship will be decided in a rapid-play tiebreak Sunday, after Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi and China’s Ding Liren remained deadlocked following 14 games played under classical rules.
Both players finished on seven points after the first-stage games played in the Kazakh capital Astana.
Each won three, while the other eight ended in a draw.
For the tiebreak stage of the match, also in Astana, the contenders will play an initial set of four games in which they have only 25 minutes to make their moves, plus an additional 10 seconds for each move played.
After drawing lots Saturday, Ding will play white in the first game, giving him the advantage of the first move.
– Breaking the deadlock –
The winner will succeed Norway’s Magnus Carlsen as world chess champion, after he chose not to defend his title and stepped aside after a 10-year reign, during which he dominated the game.
But Carlsen, considered one of the best players of all time, will remain the world’s top-rated player regardless of Sunday’s outcome.
If Sunday’s initial tiebreaker round does not end the deadlock, the time constraints will be dramatically shortened in further games.
In that case, they would be given an initial five minutes each to play — then, if need be, just three minutes until a winner emerges.
As well as having the advantage of playing white in the first tiebreak, Ding is rated higher than Nepomniachtchi in the faster formats of the game.
But he has played very little such chess in official competitions since January 2020.
– Feeling the pressure-
Saturday’s game demonstrated once again that at this level chess is as much a question of nerves as it is a battle of minds.
Both players seemed to be feeling the pressure, making uncharacteristic mistakes in their play, while failing to take full advantage of the other’s errors.
Although Nepomniachtchi pushed hard to convert a slight advantage into a win, he finally had to settle for a draw in what was the longest game of the tournament: 90 moves played over more than six and a half hours.
The two-million-euro ($2.2-million) prize would have been split 60-40 between the winner and the runner-up if the match had been decided in the initial 14-game series.
Because it has reached the tiebreak stage however, the prize money will now be split 55-45.
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