Ding Liren visits us!

by clement

I met Ding Liren about ten years ago at Biel (Switzerland). At the time, he was a 21-year-old Chinese GM with an Elo rating of 2714 points. He had performed well in the Watchmaking City Grand Masters Tournament+3 -2 =5, finishing in a tie for first place with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Étienne Bacrot and Alexander Moiseenko, but losing in the semi-final tie-break to MVL. Here’s a photo of him at the time:

Ding Liren in Biel 2013 Photo: Frederic Friedel (ChessBase).

During the duel for the 2023 World Chess Championship in Astana, I was in constant contact with Ding Liren, in the form of short e-mails of encouragement. In one of them, I sent him this photo and asked him to guess where it had been taken. The answer was immediate: Biel 2013. I think he must have recognized the jersey.

A quick aside: unlike most people, I call him “Liren”, because that’s his first name. That’s what his friends and family call him. His surname, Ding, is written in Chinese with just two strokes (丁), which means “adult male” or “population” in Chinese. This name is shared by millions of people, including Ding Junhui, the most successful Asian snooker player in the sport’s history.

After winning the grueling 18-game match against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Liren disappeared from the public eye. He played very few games and was rarely seen in public. I began to worry and a few months ago, I wrote him an e-mail:

I’d like to make you the following proposal: on your next visit to Europe, you’re invited to spend a day or two in Hamburg! I’ll take you to the ChessBase offices, where you can meet the programmers of our flagship software! You can show them how you work, how you prepare for important tournaments and how you study chess!

There are two possibilities:

  • or they’ll say: “Wow, he’s an advanced user and does everything right! In which case, you’ll have wasted a few hours of your time (but even in this worst-case scenario, at least you’ll have met some new friends!).
  • or the second, much more likely possibility: our specialists will be able to teach you how to work with our software even faster and more efficiently. They’ll probably be able to slip you things you’d never suspect! In which case, you’ll start using your preparation and study time much more efficiently in the future!

I’ve done the above with several players who are now in the top 20 (e.g. Gukesh, Pragg, Vidit, etc., and before them Kasparov, Kramnik and Anand, etc.). Each time, it’s the second branch of the alternative that has proved true.

I invite you to think about it. Hope to see you soon in Hamburg!

And so it happened. On the way to the Weissenhaus supertournament, Liren paid us a very pleasant visit. We started with a long private dinner, during which I was able to press him to tell me what had happened to him after winning the title. He was very open and told me everything. Naturally, a lot of things are very personal and I can’t reveal them here, except perhaps that he has a lot of trouble sleeping and has to take medication for it.

On the second day, I took him to our offices and locked him in a room with one of our main programmers, Mathias Feist.

Ding Liren prepares a training lesson with the technical assistance of our programmer, Mathias Feist, who introduced him to the Chess960 function available on ChessBase 17.

It turned out that Liren had a lot to learn about the optimal use of ChessBase software resources, far more than could be taught in a single session. So he’ll have to return to Hamburg to learn more. At least, if his aim is to compete with the other long-toothed talents who have acquired maximum expertise in data mining using our software.

One of these experts – and one of my favorites – spent a few weeks with us: Leon Menconca.

Leon Mendonca playing a blitz game against Liren.

The talented 17-year-old Indian has just won the Tata Steel Chess Challengers from Wijk aan Zee, and is currently staying in the ChessBase apartment, where he is recording training courses for our FritzTrainer range.

Here’s a very informative video about his daily activities:

Anyway, good luck Liren; I hope you’ll soon be back to the form you showed at the World Championships match in Astana!

And come back soon!

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