Ding Liren Beats Boris Gelfand 3-1 In Friendly Match

Ding Liren Beats Boris Gelfand 3-1 In Friendly Match

| 24 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Ding Liren defeated GM Boris Gelfand 3-1 in a friendly match held in Wenzhou, China. The four-game match started with two draws, but then the Chinese grandmaster won two games in a row.

Officially called the “City of Wenzhou Olympic Cup,” the friendly match between Israel's #1 and world #13 Gelfand, and China's #1 and world #14 Ding took place 16-19 July, 2015 in the Wenzhou Overseas Hotel in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China.

47-year-old Gelfand was welcomed to China as a big star, and rightly so. The Israeli grandmaster has been a top player for two decades, won the 2009 World Cup and the 2011 Candidates’ Tournament.

22-year-old Ding, who was in fact born in Wenzhou, is the highest rated player among a group of upcoming young Chinese stars. Together with Wang Yue, Yu Yangyi, Ni Hua and Wei Yi he won the Tromsø Olympiad last year.

The match started on Thursday with a draw that resulted from an interesting King's Indian. Gelfand had prepared the Bayonet Attack with the old sideline 10.c5, but left mainstream theory with 11.a4!?.

White basically ignores his opponent's plan on the kingside, even though Black gets his knight to f4 instead of d7 (or e8). Perhaps Ding wanted to avoid Gelfand's preparation when he played the novelty 11...Bg4!? where Hikaru Nakamura had once beaten Vladimir Kramnik with the normal mov there, 11...f5.

When White swapped the knight on f4, 14...a5! was a good way to get control over some dark squares. Some more trades followed and the players ended up with four rooks and opposite-colored bishops. Gelfand had to defend, and just held the draw.

Gelfand in deep thought while strolling around the board. | Photo: Dsb.66wz.

The second game was drawn as well, and rather quickly. It became clear once again that Gelfand's Grünfeld, which he prepared for his world championship match with Vishy Anand in 2012, is rock solid. 

In the topical 3.f3 line the players followed some recent games by Leinier Dominguez — another big theoretician. Only a few moves out of theory, Ding started repeating moves. It was the only way to avoid problems.

Gelfand still doing well with the Grünfeld. | Photo: Dsb.66wz.

For his second black game Ding switched to 1...d5, and a Closed Catalan came on the board. White quickly gave up the bishop pair, but got the center and more space. 

After the opening Gelfand must have been better, but somehow Ding managed to solve his problems and even got an advantage over the next twenty moves.

Shortly before the time control the game became really sharp, but the complications always favored Black. Ding defended well, ended up with two extra pawns and converted the full point on move 75.

On Sunday Gelfand needed to win to tie the match. In that case a playoff was scheduled for Monday, but that's not going to happen: Ding won again to win the match 3-1.

This time it was Gelfand's turn to switch to 1...d5, and this led to an Anti-Meran as seen in e.g. the So-Navara match last month. Black ended up with a bad bishop on b7 (combined with the pawn block b5-c6-d5), but with a knight running to c4 maybe it wasn't as bad as it looked.

On move twenty Ding played a very interesting pawn sacrifice. In hindsight, Gelfand perhaps shouldn't have accepted it because he allowed huge activity for his opponent. 

Initially Gelfand was doing OK, but on move 29 he must have miscalculated, because his queen sortie to g4 and e2 failed by one tempo. Ding missed a quicker win, but won the game convincingly anyway.

Ding took 10 Elo points from Gelfand to move up to #11 in the live ratings, whereas Gelfand dropped to #17. Ding earned U.S. $20,000 for his victory; Gelfand took home $10,000 although a starting fee added to the prize fund cannot be ruled out.

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