Ding Liren Beats Wesley So 2.5-1.5 In Friendly Match
In a short, friendly match held in Shanghai, Ding Liren defeated Wesley So with a 2.5-1.5 score. The Chinese number-one player won one game; the other three ended in draws.
Right after coming third at the U.S. Championship and second in the Ultimate Blitz Battle in St. Louis, Wesley So traveled to Shanghai where he was invited to play a friendly but well-paid match with Ding Liren. Only four games were scheduled, and the prize fund was $30,000.
Before the match there were some other activities, including an event with children on May 1 where both players gave a simul. The actual games were played on May 4, 5, 7, and 8 in the Gulf National Forest Park, located about 60 kilometers away from Shanghai.
The playing hall of the match. | Photo Fan Lulu.
In the first game So probably surprised his opponent a bit by playing the Slav. However, it was tough to predict the American's opening choice anyway; he had played different openings such as the Grünfeld, King's Indian, Nimzo and Queen's Indian in recent games!
His setup in the game was a bit passive, but Ding's advantage never got very serious.
The start of the match in Shanghai. | Photo Fan Lulu.
Ding's choice of the Open Ruy Lopez in game two couldn't have come as a surprise for So. The Chinese player had played it against none other than Magnus Carlsen in the final round of Wijk aan Zee this year, and also three times at the IMSA Elite Mind Games in Huai'an, early March 2016.
The players followed one of the games of the recent Women's World Championship match between Hou Yifan and Mariya Muzychuk and eventually left theory after 15 moves. There it was already clear that Black had equalized.
Ding Liren going for the Open Spanish in game two. | Photo Fan Lulu.
The third game was the only decisive game of the match, and easily the most interesting: a Catalan Gambit where both players ended up with a far advanced passer. Showing excellent calculation this was Ding at his best. Here's the game annotated by our resident grandmaster!
Ding Liren won the third and decisive game. | Photo Fan Lulu.
Game four, a must-win for So and a game worth $10,000, was another Open Spanish. This time another Hou Yifan game was followed for no less than 22 moves. So kept a tiny edge into the endgame, but yet again Ding proved a master of the pawn-sacrifice-for-activity. Instructive defense in that rook endgame!
The players signing the score sheets after the
last game ended in a draw. | Photo Fan Lulu.
With his win Ding earned $20,000 whereas Wesley So took home $10,000. On Twitter it was mentioned that another match has already been scheduled next month for Ding, who won five Elo points and moved up to number seven in the live ratings.
@MarkTWIC Ding Liren has other match with top player schedule in 18-22 July 2016 in his home city Wenzhou, like last year with Gelfand.— sinochess ( @sinachess) May 9, 2016
Ding winning the first prize and biggest trophy... | Photo Fan Lulu.
...but So cannot be too unhappy either. | Photo Fan Lulu.
A closer look at the trophies. | Photo Fan Lulu.