General May 6, 2023 | 7:41 AMby Colin McGourty

Ding Liren and Nepomniachtchi back in action

Less than a week after Ding Liren became the 17th World Champion he’s back in action today in Bucharest, Romania as he takes on Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the first round of the Superbet Chess Classic. It’s not just Ding making the trip from Astana, as Ian Nepomniachtchi faces Ding’s second Richard Rapport. The line-up features 2022 Grand Chess Tour champion Alireza Firouzja as well as Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Wesley So, Jan-Krzysztof Duda and local wildcard Bogdan-Daniel Deac.

No rest for the new World Champion Ding Liren! | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

After the World Championship match went the distance in Astana there were fears that one or both of the players would skip the first event on the 2023 Grand Chess Tour, but both have made it to Bucharest for the Superbet Chess Classic. The 9-round classical tournament starts at 14:00 CEST on Saturday May 6th, with $350,000 and a top prize of $100,000 up for grabs.

Ding and Nepomniachtchi together again in the Superbet Chess Classic line-up | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

Ding Liren can’t help himself taking first, as he drew the no. 1 seed for the tournament.

He begins with the white pieces against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the French star who has quietly returned to the brink of the Top 10.

The most eye-catching Round 1 clash, however, is between Ian Nepomniachtchi and the man he fought a proxy battle against in Astana, Ding Liren’s second Richard Rapport.

Will we get to see any of the ideas that didn’t quite make it into the match, perhaps even one of the lines that was burned when Ding and Richard’s training games were discovered online?

Anish Giri, the winner of this year’s Tata Steel Masters, takes on Polish no. 1 Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

19-year-old Alireza Firouzja, the world no. 4 behind no. Ian Nepomniachtchi and no. 3 Ding Liren, hasn’t played a classical game since he won the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, and with it the Grand Chess Tour, back in September. In Round 1 he takes on Wesley So, who has had plenty of time to recover from a frenetic start to the year.

Will 2023 again be Alireza Firouzja's year in the Grand Chess Tour? | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

Fabiano Caruana will now, like Anish Giri, switch from commentary to playing, and he starts against local star Bogdan-Daniel Deac, who is the one wildcard in the event but already a 2700 player.

Fabiano Caruana will leave the commentary to others this time | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

The most anticipated game of the tournament, however, is likely to be Nepomniachtchi-Ding Liren, which will already take place in Monday’s Round 3.

Given how the match went it’s possible Ding will struggle with the black pieces, though his freshest memory will be of how he won the final rapid game with Black.

The 13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov was on hand to open the event | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

Don’t miss all the Superbet Chess Classic action live here on chess24 from 14:00 CEST on Saturday, May 6th!

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