Mate-in-2: Ding Liren blunders against Magnus Carlsen to lose 4th game in row at Norway Chess

The former world champion Magnus Carlsen and the current world champion Ding Liren crossed paths on Sunday as they headed into opposite directions on the leaderboard at the Norway Chess 2024 tournament.

Ding finds himself at the bottom of the six-player standings after six rounds with just 2.5 points so far at the event in Stavanger. The loss against Carlsen was his fourth consecutive defeat in a row. Carlsen, meanwhile, is on top of the standings after winning three games in a row after losing to the 18-year-old from India, R Praggnanandhaa.

The defeat against Carlsen would be a particularly bruising one as Ding resigned while facing mate in 30 moves.

Carlsen, playing with white pieces, moved his rook to e4 on move 29. Ding needed to find h6, which would have prevented a checkmate in two moves. Instead, he pushed his rook to b2, a move that sent the evaluation bar spiralling. Carlsen promptly responded with Qxh7 which prompted a resignation from the Chinese world champion, because it was apparent that Carlsen would play the inevitable rook h4 next which was a checkmate.

It’s been a rough event for Ding, who found himself ousted from the world’s top 10 rated players earlier in the event. Ding has endured a wretched run of form ever since he became the world champion. He had gone to the extent of telling The Indian Express before the tournament that his target for the Norway Chess was not to finish last. Ding will face India’s Gukesh, who recently turned 18, in the World Chess Championship later this year.

Ding Liren exclusive interview with The Indian Express. (PHOTO: Stev Bonhage via FIDE) Ding Liren contemplates his next move during the World Chess Championship battle last year. (PHOTO: Stev Bonhage via FIDE)

As soon as the players shook hands, Ding covered his forehead with his left hand’s palm and looked away from the board and the fans seated on his left. He then quickly exited the playing hall.

“Missing a mate in two like that can only happen if you’re completely out of sorts like Ding is. I feel bad for him as he looks miserable while playing,” Carlsen told Norway’s TV2. “As for me, I had a job to do today. I needed to win the game. Happy I managed to do that.”

When further asked about Ding, Carlsen said: “It’s a similar feeling I had when he played in Germany in February (at the Freestyle Chess G.O.A.T. event in Weissenhaus), he just seems to be off. You can see that both from his demeanour and the way that he makes critical decisions… he makes them quickly, he doesn’t think when he needs to think. I wish him well, I hope he gets better.”

Before Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura had spoken out about Ding’s issues while playing against the Chinese player on Saturday.

“I don’t know what’s going through Ding’s head… it is very clear that he’s not the same person he was back when I played him in 2022. Everything, including the body language, doesn’t feel right. I would be very concerned for him for this upcoming World Championship match against Gukesh. He just doesn’t look right. You still feel bad for the guy… Not sure if it was visible on the video but at some point I was struggling to keep my composure because at some moment he started bouncing up and down, he was shaking, like literally shaking,” Nakamura had said on Saturday.

All Indians lose

The three-member Indian contingent suffered defeats on Sunday. While Vaishali lost to women’s world champion Ju Wenjun, Praggnanandhaa and Koneru Humpy held their opponents to draws but lost in the Armageddon showdowns.

Praggnanandhaa raced against time while taking on Alireza Firouzja in the Armageddon and eventually was handed defeat while Pia Cramling overpowered Humpy.

Vaishali was leading the women’s section heading into round 6, but the defeat to Ju left her in third place. There was some drama in the game as Vaishali attempted a threefold repetition. However, after lengthy consultations, the arbiters rejected the claim. It took a few more moves before Vaishali resigned.

Praggnanandhaa is third in the open standings with 9.5 points, with Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura leading.

You can follow the Norway Chess tournament on Sony LIV

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