Ding secures an important draw in game three

Ding Liren drew with black pieces against Ian Nepomniachtchi, securing an important break in the match after a devastating loss in the second game

After a blow in the second round when he lost as White, Ding Liren showed more confidence and drew with black pieces against Ian Nepomniachtchi in the match for the title of World Chess Champion.

Despite Nepomniachtchi opting to play 1.d4 instead of his regular move 1.e4, Black managed to get an equal position quickly out of the opening. In the Carlsbad variation of the exchange line of the Queen’s Gambit declined, up until move 17, the two players followed the game played between Grandmaster Anish Giri and Ding Liren in 2022 which also ended in a draw.

After exchanges in the centre, both had a solid position. Ding opted to play on and chose a more active move, but the position was still balanced. The two tested each other a bit more but then went for a move repetition.
Photo by Stev Bonhage
After 30 moves and three hours of play, the two agreed to split a point.

A confidence boost for Ding who was in control of the position in this game and had a comfortable draw. Alongside game one, this is the second draw of the match. The result is now 2:1 for Ian Nepomniachtchi.

The fourth game of the match will take place on Thursday, 13th April at 3 PM local time in Astana.

Here follows a closer look at game three of the match.

This was the first game after a day of rest. The match did not start well for Ding: in the first game he was weaker but drew, and in the second he was beaten badly in just 29 moves. As Vishy Anand noted, at this point Ding needed to “stabilise the match” and “if he has a reserve opening, this is a time to deploy it”.
Photo by Stev Bonhage
Ding arrived at the playing hall about five minutes before the start of the game. He was psyching himself up: wrote his opponent’s name in the game sheet, neatly readjusted his pieces on the board, and cleaned off some dust from the table and jacket.

As Nepomniachtchi arrived, just two minutes before the start of the round, Ding shook his hand and stood up, took his jacket off and placed it on the chair and then sat back. It felt like a different Ding – more focused and more present, both in body and spirit.
Photo by Anna Shtourman
The first ceremonial move of the day was made by Talgat Musabaev, a Soviet and Kazakh cosmonaut, a Hero of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation. He made three trips to space between 1994 and 2001, spent 341 days 09 hours 46 minutes in space and conducted eight spacewalks. Was this to be a game out of space? Unfortunately for the spectators - it wasn’t. Still, it was a different Ding who seemed much more confident and spent significantly more time at the board than in the previous two games.

Like in game one, Nepomniachtchi – playing as White – refused to reveal his first move to the honorary guest and instead told him to play whatever he wanted.

Nepo played 1.d4 instead of his usual 1.e4, signalling to the opponent that he wanted to test his preparation in closed openings. After some thought, Ding replied with 1…Nf6 and the opponents entered the Carlsbad variation of the exchange line of the Queen’s Gambit declined which has been extensively tested at the highest level lately.
Photo by Stev Bonhage
The two were following the game Ding played as Black against Anish Giri in May 2022. The position was equal. Anish Giri slightly criticised Ian’s 16.f3. “This is not a good move in this position,” said Anish, who played this himself against Ding and suggested 16.Nb3 as a better alternative.

Up to this point, Ian was playing fast, which may suggest that he was in his preparation.

However, after Ding’s 16…Ne6 Nepomniachtchi sank into deep thought.
Giri noted that it’s clear that this position “is not Ian’s prep” and that Nepo “is confusing his prep with my game”, adding that Black has more chances here, referring back to his own game against Ding. “White isn’t worse, but his plan to push e4 is not working out”.

17.Nce2 Finally, Ian deviated from the game Giri-Ding. In that game, White played Qf2 in this position but did not get much. Ding stuck to the way he played against Giri and reacted with 17…c5.

This is the best move in this position – striking White’s centre and forcing him to react.

After a series of logical moves, the opponents reached the position where Ding had to make an important decision.
19…Bd7 was played by Ding instead of simplifying 19…d4, which offered a drawish endgame.

After 21.Bxd7 Nxd7 the Chinese GM implemented a knight maneuver to c4. Black has an isolated pawn in the centre but in return his pieces are more active, and White has a weak pawn on e3.
Since White’s position is by no means better, a draw by move repetition came as a logical outcome after 25.Na4 Qe7 26.Rfe1 Qf6 27.Nb5 Nc7 28.Nd4 Ne629.Nb5 Nc7 30.Nd4.

“It was an interesting battle but I’m not so happy about the result. Ian missed 21…Nxd7 but I couldn’t find the way through. The draw is a pretty decent result for both of us”, said Ding after the game”, said Ding after the game.
Photo by Anna Shtourman
Nepomniachtchi comment on the game: “The Queen’s gambit declined is a solid opening so you’re not going to achieve much so it’s hard to disrupt equality”.
Game 3 News important