Person of day - 24 OCTOBER 2023
Ding Liren was born on 24th October 1992 in Wenzhou. His father- a doctor by education- called him after a famous Confucian saying: “If you want to be healthy, make others healthy. If you want to grow, make others grow”. Liren means “to make (others) healthy”.
“I learned to play chess when I was just four. At that time, Wenzhou was unofficially considered the city of chess. There was a very good atmosphere to learn and play here; multiple schools were opened and multiple competitions were held. My mother, who worked as a nurse, agreed with a colleague that they would teach their sons one of the types of chess. My first friend in chess was Zheng Ibo, who is a renowned Chinese arbiter today. At the beginning, we could choose between Chinese and classical chess. We chose classical.” (Ding Liren)
The rising star of Wenzhou won multiple juniors’ tournaments in China. Ding Liren came second in world U10 and U12 championships. On both occasions, he finished behind the winner on additional criteria and after his second mishap, he decided to participate in adults’ competitions.
The young chess player’s extraordinary diligence and his astounding levels of ability soon led to great success: when he was just 16, Ding won the Chinese championship. In 2011 and 2012, he repeated this feat. He has been an international grandmaster since 2009.
Ding Liren finished middle school in Wenzhou and attended senior school in Beijing.
“I preferred to play chess instead of studying, which did not interest me. Before that, I was always the best student who was an outstanding mathematician. But then the material became difficult for me, because my school was the best in Wenzhou. So I spent most of my school time playing chess. A year after graduation, fortune smiled on me and I was admitted to Beijing University’s law faculty.” (Ding Liren)
Ding Liren came third at the world U20 championship in 2012, a half-point behind Alexander Ipatov and Richard Rapport. At the 2011 World Cup, he lost to Wesley So in the first round. He had to wait five years to get his revenge- the Chinese grandmaster outplayed So 2,5:1,5 in a friendly match in 2016.
Ding Liren’s performance at the 2015 World Cup was much more impressive. He passed the first three rounds with flying colours, but lost the key match of the fourth round to his teammate Wei Yi. He beat Boris Gelfand 3:1 at an exhibition match in 2015.
He has won the Olympics and the world championship with the Chinese national team. At the 2014 Olympiad in Tromso, Ding scored 7,5 points out of 10 on the second board and won an individual bronze medal. He won key games in contests against Hungary and Poland. At the 2015 world championship, Ding Liren was already the team leader and finished the tournament without defeat.
Ding Liren was the second Chinese player after Wang Yue to become one of the top ten players in the world. But, unlike his predecessor, he managed to cement his place in the elite. In 2017, Ding won FIDE Grand Prix stages in Shenzhen and Moscow and at the World Cup in Tbilisi, he qualified for the final and won an invitation to the 2018 candidates’ tournament, where the Chinese grandmaster was the only player to go the whole tournament undefeated.
For several years, Ding Liren's rating surpassed the magical mark of 2800. In August 2019, he won the Sinquefield Cup, having defeated Magnus Carlsen on tiebreak. At the FIDE World Cup in 2019, which took place in Khanty-Mansiysk, he made it to the final against but lost to Teimour Radjabov.
In the FIDE Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg, which lasted for two years due to the pandemic, the Chinese grandmaster took 5th place. He started the tournament quite badly, however, he won three games in a row at the finish line, including the one against the winner Ian Nepomniachtchi.
In 2022, Ding Liren finished the FIDE Candidates Tournament in Spain in second place. After Magnus Carlsen had refused to defend his title, Liren got the right to play the World Championship Match versus Ian Nepomniachtchi, who had won the FIDE Candidates.
The Match, which took place in April 2023 in Astana, was an equal and a very nervous battle. Several times, Ian pulled ahead, but Ding would constantly equalise the score. The classical part ended in a draw, and then the Chinese grandmaster won the fourth additional game on tiebreak to become the 17th World Chess Champion.