GCT Final, Game 2: Brilliant rook swing puts Ding ahead

Finals Day 2, 7 December 2019


  • Ding Liren opens up a clear 9-3 lead in the Grand Chess Tour Final after a majestic rook swing and kingside attack sweeps aside Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s defences

  • Magnus Carlsen pulls off a “harrowing escape” after being dead lost against Lev Aronian, extending to 107 his unbeaten run in classical games


Ding Liren produced a brilliant attacking game to pull ahead of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on Day 2 of the Grand Chess Tour Final, defeating the Frenchman in 50 moves after a slow build-up exploded into life with a sudden switch to a kingside onslaught.



The critical moment came when the Chinese star once again played a courageous g-pawn advance in front of his own king (33 g4!). This threatened to box in MVL’s bishop on h3, and a subsequent …f5 permitted Ding to open up the g-file for his king’s rook.


In a superb piece of intuitive play, Ding then also swung his queen’s rook over to the kingside via a4, saying afterwards that he was banking on his pieces being “so well placed” for a kingside attack that he was unconcerned about allowing MVL a dangerous passed a-pawn.



So it proved to be, as Ding’s enterprise was rewarded with the crushing 48 Rxg7! breakthrough, forcing the win. One beautiful point, shown by GM Julian Hodgson’s analysis, was that if Black plays in reply 48…Rb1, seemingly winning White’s queen, 49 Rg1! Rxd1 50 Rxh6 is checkmate.


A beaming Ding told commentator GM Maurice Ashley immediately after his win that he had prepared the strong and surprising manoeuvre Nd2-e4-d2 before the game, and did not feel MVL had any fully adequate reply after this.


The Chinese player’s whole attacking concept was widely praised by grandmasters at the London Chess Classic, and Ding was clearly happy to have struck decisively after missing wins against MVL the day before.


The Frenchman now faces a tough struggle to turn the match around on Sunday in the deciding rapid and blitz portion of the match.



Carlsen’s ‘great escape’

A visibly relieved Magnus Carlsen pulled off what he called a “harrowing escape” against Lev Aronian in the Third Place Playoff match, a day after beating the Armenian in Game 1.


The World Champion was clearly lost in the early middlegame, despite sacrificing a pawn to relieve Aronian’s pressure. But he showed once more the class he has displayed many times this year, coming back from the dead to hang on and pose practical problems for the Armenian.



Speaking after the game, Magnus described the game as “objectively speaking, awful quality-wise” and admitted that once his position was really bad, he decided to “give it a go” and “try to hustle” his opponent.


A frustrating day for Aronian, who again showed flashes of the brilliant play his fans know he can produce.

GCT Games | Download PGN

Adams wins British Knockout

Mickey Adams triumphed in the British Knockout Championship, holding on to his lead from the Rapid portion of his match against David Howell. After three draws in the first four blitz games, Adams won the match with two games still to go.


The winning score of 15-9 crowned a week in which Adams showed great resilience, beating Howell, currently England’s No. 1 by rating, after surviving tough challenges from speed expert Marcus Harvey in the quarter-finals and Luke McShane in the semi-finals.

BKO Games | Download PGN

For live coverage of the GCT Finals, British KO and other London Chess Classic events, go to: https://londonchessclassic.com.


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Tim Wall, @London_Chess, press officer, London Chess Classic



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