2017’s Game of the Year?

This past week, the chess world witnessed what many believe to be a once-in-a…well…year event.  In this past match of the Chinese League, a huge 12-team event that takes place over the course of about nine months, Ding Liren was paired as black against Jinshi Bai (2585).  When this game started, no one could ever expect what was in store; yet, when it ended, many were debating whether it could take the title of Game of the Year for 2017.  Without further ado, let’s take a look.  Note:  My comments are located within the game viewer.

Jinshi Bai – Ding Liren, Chinese League, 2017

Simple a stunning performance by Ding Liren, and the king hunt at the end was nothing short of flawless.  This was made possible from the start with Black’s early d5 lunge, which set the tone for the rest of the game in terms of counterplay.  Of course, that pawn ended up making its way all the way to b2 before being taken.  The critical point was when Black sacrificed his queen in order to keep play on the open d-file and queenside.  If White had blocked with 17. Rd2, the game may have ended differently, but the text move essentially guaranteed a middlegame king hunt, something we see so rarely these days due to long and safe opening preparation.  After that move, Ding Liren played the rest of the game perfectly, with every move after 17. … Rxd8 being the engine’s top choice.

After playing through this game for the first time, I was immediately reminded of another “game of the year” caliber game from just two years ago between Wei Yi and Lazaro Bruzon Batista.  As the reaction to that game told us back then, both of these games were masterpieces of attacking.

While the chess world continues to sit in awe, Ding Liren now turns his attention to Magnus Carlsen when the two begin a mini rapid and blitz match in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, at the time of this article’s posting, I will be in New York City for a day trip.  Thanks for reading, good luck in your future games, and I’ll see you next time.

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