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Carlsen Demolishes Ding, Wins With Day To Spare
Carlsen beats Ding 6.5-1.5 on day 5. | Photo: Austin Fuller/official site.

Carlsen Demolishes Ding, Wins With Day To Spare

The two will definitely play chess on Tuesday, but by crushing his opponent 6.5-1.5 on the third day of the Champions Showdown in St. Louis Magnus Carlsen secured match victory vs. Ding Liren with a game and a day to spare.

"He's not trying to prove that he is the best player in the world. He's trying to prove that he is among the best players ever," said commentator GM Maurice Ashley in his usual hyperbolic style. But, as always, Ashley also had a point.

Ding is not just a strong grandmaster. Rated 2777, he is the first ever Chinese player to qualify for the Candidates. But on Monday he wasn't playing his best chess. And that was kind of a problem.

For any top grandmaster in the world there's a simple rule: You better be in top shape when facing Carlsen. Because if he is in top shape, things can get brutal.

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Suddenly the St. Louis Chess Club's activity was limited to one chess board. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/official site.

Day three had eight 10-minute games on the program. Ding, who was trailing his opponent 13.5-30.5, in fact started with an excellent win. He switched to the Sicilian defense, got a comfortable middlegame position and outplayed Carlsen wonderfully:

Carlsen said he was "definitely angered and a bit tilted" by this game. "Obviously the first wasn't a very good performance. After that it was a lot better but basically I decided to play like it's blitz, not rapid, quickly. Don't try and do too much, just keep the game going and try to outlast him."

That strategy worked out well, although not immediately. Perhaps Carlsen also needed the following, psychological boost. Giving away a position like this must have been a big blow for Ding.

From this point, the match was incredibly one-sided. Ding just couldn't get his mojo back, and Carlsen continued throwing punches to his opponent even when the poor Chinese grandmaster was already on the ropes.

The world champion is known for playing for a win in almost any game, but this time there was an extra incentive. During this match, Carlsen was already well beyond 2950 on the live blitz rating list.

"I would have liked to get my blitz rating to 3000," but as I understand that probably won't be possible as the games aren't rated. I don’t know who came up with that rule, but it's a pity."

That 3000 won't be in reach in St. Louis because of paragraph 6.5 of FIDE's rating regulations:

6.5   Where a match is over a specific number of games, those played after one player has won shall not be rated.

Chess.com received a comment from Werner Stubenvoll, the chairman of the FIDE Qualification Commission:

"During the Qualification Commission meeting in Goynuk, Turkey we decided that for matches up to eight games we will find a solution to rate all games automatically. It should work from 1 January 2018. 

In any case, on special request before start of the match the chairman of the Qualification Commission has the possibility to allow all games to be rated."

Carlsen probably only found out about this rule after day three, on which he scored 6.5/7 after that first loss.

A King's Indian Attack led to a quick win in game three when Ding played the sloppy 18...Bb7. A simple attack led to an extra pawn and Carlsen finished it off smoothly.

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Some quick preparation in between rounds. | Photo: Austin Fuller/official site.

"I tried to play quickly in some games but it went very bad. In some games I [took] more time, but then I was slightly worse but maybe holdable, but then I had no time," said Ding, thereby describing the typical problem when facing a stronger player: often you can get along on the board, but then you look at the clock and you're dead anyway. Like in Monday's fourth game:

In the very next game we saw more "tactical sloppyness" by Ding, who just wasn alert enough. His opening went more or less OK, with some light-sqeare weakness on the kingside that were hard to exploit for White as his king's bishop was out of play. That all changed suddenly.

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Seirawan: "Whatever strategic problems appear on the board, Magnus is solving them better than Ding." | Photo: Lennart Ootes/official site.

A draw in game six gave Ding time to breathe, but things hardly got any better for the remaining two games. Commentator Yasser Seirawan had trouble understanding Ding's anti-positional decisions on move 20 and 22 and although Carlsen missed a direct win, he kept in control.

With that win, Carlsen had secured match victory with a game and a day to spare. A tremendous achievement.

Carlsen then also won the final game of the day.

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Ding knew he was the underdog in this match, but didn't expect the difference to be so big. "I didn't play well, I could play much better but before the tournament I was already very nervous about the play, because there will be 30 games and I haven't played so many games, especially against the world champion."

He revealed that during their training camp in 2015, they also played a few blitz games: "I have played against him in a training camp. I think I made four draws and four losses to him in blitz. So I [was] very nervous before the tournament."

The Chinese GM modestly noted that he might be overrated in blitz at the moment: "I just played two very good tournaments, Aeroflot [Blitz] and the World Mind Games, won about 200 points. I haven't played blitz tournaments since then, for about one year. I know my rating is much higher than my level but today of course I wasn't in my best shape."

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How will Ding be able to motivate himself for 12 more game? | Photo: Lennart Ootes/official site.

Carlsen: "I think in some of the games he's not looking as much for his chances as he should. He was probably getting a bit dejected as well when he misses stuff even though that might not be the end of the road. I've been there, we've all been there, let's see if he can turn it around tomorrow."

The winner suggested that, because the remainder won't be rated, he might "try to mix it up more" so we can perhaps expect some offbeat openings on Tuesday, when 12 5-minute games will be played. They start two hours earlier than on the other days: at 11 a.m. local time which is 9 a.m. Pacific, noon New York and 6 p.m. Central Europe time.

You can replay the live broadcast of day 3 here.

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