Levon Aronian came incredibly close to winning with Black and taking the lead in the 2017 World Cup final on Sunday, but Ding Liren battled to a 75-move draw and remains unbeaten in Tbilisi. Signs of exhaustion were evident in both players after their 21-day ordeal, but we now know there’s not going to be an early end to the match. All four classical games will be played, with tiebreaks, if required, taking place on Wednesday.
You can play through all the World Cup games using the selector below – click on a result to open the game with computer analysis or hover over a player’s name to see all his or her results from Tbilisi:
When Ding Liren was interviewed after Game 2 of the final he described it as “a very difficult game for me” and felt he’d been outplayed in the opening:
He played the Catalan and called Aronian’s 13…Nd7, swapping off bishops and keeping the knight, a “very interesting idea”. Then he thought his 16.Rd2 was “very bad” (he felt he should have played 16.Qe2 immediately), although it seems in general he was much more critical of his own play than it deserved:
Levon did find an interesting plan, though, spotting here that his seemingly stuck c-pawn could suddenly be unleashed with 16…Nb6 17.Qe2 Be8 18.b3 c5!, an idea Ding Liren admitted to missing. He already felt he was slightly worse and responded with 19.Qe3!?
Here there was a curious moment, since Black could have played 19…c4!? immediately, something Ding Liren confirmed afterwards he thought was refuted by 20.d5, though 20…Qc7 was described as "very decent for Lev" by Svidler, who went on:
It looks like they're both in agreement on that subject and that's something that happens quite often - when one of the players is very convinced that something doesn't work for his opponent that conviction kind of gets passed across the table!
You can watch Peter’s appearance on the otherwise German live show below. As well as the World Cup he also talks about events on the Isle of Man and the potential wild cards for the Candidates Tournament:
Back in the game Levon instead prepared to be able to put the queen on c5 with 19…Rac8, with Ding Liren lamenting, “I missed his very simple move… after this I was very nervous”. Again, although after 20.Rc1 c4! 21.d5 Qc5 Black was absolutely fine, there seems to have been no reason for White to panic, and it was only one “careless move” (Ding Liren) that prevented a quick draw:
Simply 30.f3 here and it’s hard to imagine much can go wrong for White. Instead, though, Ding Liren played 30.Ncb3?, when Black didn't cooperate and exchange pieces but went for 30…b6! 31.Nxc5 bxa5 32.Bc4 a4 33.Kf1 a3 and White is facing a life-or-death struggle against Black’s outside passed pawn. It wasn’t that the Chinese grandmaster had failed to see the move 30…b6, but he’d underestimated it, only realising too late that his king was one tempo too slow getting across to the queenside to stop the pawn.
From there on Aronian slowly tortured his opponent, but it remained extremely tough for both players, or other watching humans, to calculate all the lines. Let’s instead simply give two critical moments. The first is after 55…Kd4, which was the moment Ding Liren felt he was clearly lost, since he couldn’t find a move. After thinking for almost three and a half minutes he played 56…Ba2 with only 5 seconds remaining on his clock!
As you can see, Levon had almost five minutes, but over the next few moves his time also drained away as he strove to find a clear win. Ding Liren would later comment, “of course we know it must be winning, but I didn’t find a clear way”.
Aronian played 56…Nxg5 57.h4 Ne4 58.Nd7 Nc5 59.Nf6 and still seems to have been winning until after 59…Ke5?! 60.Nd5 Bf5?! 61.Ne3! Nd3+ 62.Kc2!, when it was suddenly clear that White had survived:
Ding Liren felt Aronian might have missed that the white king gets to b3 to support the bishop and attack the a3-pawn. The lone black pawn on the kingside can easily be dealt with by the white knight and king, with a handshake coming on move 75.
So after a bruising encounter for both sides the final match of the 2017 World Cup is now like any other match at the tournament – two classical games followed, if necessary, by tiebreaks. Will the growing exhaustion lead to more blunders and shaky play in the next two days? We’ll soon find out, as there are no more rest days and the players will be back in action on Monday!
Watch Game 3 with commentary in multiple languages and streams live here on chess24 from 13:00 CEST onwards. You can also follow the games in our free mobile apps: