A Ding-Nepo playoff it is, after heart-stopping Game 14

“This match is totally nuts!” said Anish Giri as Ding Liren went all-in with the white pieces in the final classical game of the match. It backfired spectacularly, with Ian Nepomniachtchi getting a series of chances until in the endgame he once more looked on the verge of becoming World Champion. One rushed move, however, and Ding Liren snatched his chance to force a drawn rook endgame and take the match to a playoff on Sunday.

Replay the final classical game of the 2023 FIDE World Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan (or check out the game with computer analysis).

1. d4
2. c4
3. ♘c3
4. e3
5. ♗d2
6. a3
7. ♘f3
8. dxc5
9. ♕c2
10. ♗xc4
11. ♖d1
12. ♘g5
13. h4
14. ♗e2
15. ♖c1
16. ♘ge4
17. ♘xe4
18. ♖xc2
19. ♗b4
20. axb4
21. ♘c5
22. ♖g1
23. e4
24. b5
25. ♘xb7
26. ♖c4
27. ♘c5
28. ♖c3
29. b4
30. ♖cg3
31. bxc5
32. ♖xg7+
33. ♗d3
34. ♔e2
35. ♖g8+
36. ♖1g3
37. ♖h8
38. b6
39. ♖xe8+
40. ♗b5+
41. ♖xc3
42. ♖f3
43. ♖c3
44. ♖c7+
45. ♖c6+
46. ♖a6
47. ♔f3
48. ♔g3
49. ♖a8
50. ♔g2
51. ♖a5
52. ♔f3
53. ♖a6
54. ♔e3
55. ♔e2
56. ♔f3
57. ♔e3
58. ♔e2
59. ♔f3
60. ♔e3
61. ♔f3
62. ♖xf6
63. ♖a6
64. ♔g2
65. f4
66. e5
67. ♖a4
68. ♖a6+
69. ♖a7
70. ♖a8
71. ♖a6
72. ♖a7
73. ♖a8
74. ♖a6+
75. ♔f2
76. ♔g2
77. ♔f2
78. ♔f1
79. ♔f2
80. ♔g2
81. ♔f2
82. e6
83. ♖a7
84. ♔g2
85. ♖xa3
86. ♔f2
87. ♖a5
88. ♔f3
89. ♖f5
90. ♖xf4


And check out the live commentary from Fabiano Caruana, Tania Sachdev and Robert Hess.

The normal “grandmasterly” approach with the white pieces in the final game of a World Championship match would be to try and press, but in a risk-free manner. Ding Liren instead stayed true to the whole spirit of the match in Astana when he went for 12.Ng5!?

12…h6 13.h4!? was indeed played, and mayhem ensued. Again and again it seemed as though the game might still fizzle out into an early draw, but Ding Liren kept finding the most aggressive solutions to his problems until he landed in huge trouble after 34.Ke2?

Perhaps seeing the game coming to an end after exchanges on b5, Ding had overlooked 34…Rc3!, and suddenly Ian was very close to winning the game and match.

The 2023 FIDE World Championship has been nothing if not unpredictable, however, and there was one more huge twist. 36…Rb3! was essential to keep the b6-pawn under lock and key, but Ian went for 36…e5? after less than two minutes’ thought. 

Ding was finally able to do what he’d been trying to do for half the game and force a draw by tactical means, with 37.Rh8! Rd6 38.b6!

The point, as we got to see in the game, was 38…Rxb6 39.Rxe8+! Kxe8 40.Bb5+ Rxb5 41.Rxc3 and Ding had escaped into a rook endgame a pawn down. 

With the stakes so high it was impossible to relax, but Ding Liren made no more mistakes and we all have to come back on Sunday when the match will finally be decided in playoffs. 

Come back later for player quotes and analysis!

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