Ode to Ding. A Coronation Special

May 3, 2023

The Coronation of Charles the third in London this week has made news around the world. But I want to share news of another Coronation which deserves more publicity. I’m referring to the coronation of Ding Lauren, who was crowned as World Chess Champion.

Ding, although a youthful prodigy, in his native China, never shot to stardom, but progressed sedately to become a strong grandmaster at relatively mature age. His talents were cloaked in an engagingly modest style, not always present of the pantheon of world champions before him.

His opportunity to become world champion came about when Magnus Carlsen, the former champion decided not to defend his title against the World no 2, the Russian Ian Nepomniatchtchi. In what follows I will describe him by the widely used abbreviation of his name Nepo.
As a result of Carlsen’s withdrawal, there was a candidate slot to be filled, which was duly won by Ding, who had reached the rank of third highest player in the world, at the age of 40.
The rearranged match took place between Nepo and Ding during the last weeks of April as the best of 14 games. If there was no winner a form of quick chess was to be played. Tennis and football players will see the similarities between tie break sets, and extra time and penalties.

And that was indeed needed. The players evenly matched, with Nepo mostly having the upper hand, but Ding clinging on tenaciously with brilliant defence in tough positions.
The shootout continued. In another of my favourite metaphors, Ding was still playing Houdini chess.
In the fourth shootout, it looked as if another Houdini effort was needed. With only a minute left on his clock, Ding make a risky break for freedom. Nepo, now was rattled, missed a clear win, and all his efforts perished in seconds.

A new world champion had emerged, who wept for joy at the awards ceremony. He had become the first Chinese player to hold that precise title. But mention should be made of Ju Wenjun, the first ever Chinese world champion when she took the title of Woman’s champion in 2020.

I felt the event worthy of a poetic tribute. The Poet Laureate had dutifully composed one for Prince Charles, so I took it upon myself to come up with a few verses for Ding.

As inspiration, I borrowed the spirit of a well-known piece from The Mikado. I accepted the pleadings of a few trusted advisors, who unanimously urged me not to attempt to sing my composition.

Ode to Ding

Our voices are raised to acclaim the new King
“Sing Liren, Ding Liren, Ding Liren”
No praise is too high for our newly crowned King
“Sing Liren, Ding Liren, Ding Liren”

Magnus the Champion had ceded his Crown
“Sing Liren, Ding Liren, Ding Liren”
The pressure competing was wearing him down
“Sing Liren, Ding Liren, Ding Liren”

Astana in Kazakhstan staged the event
“Sing Liren, Ding Liren, Ding Liren”
A new King would triumph, however it went
“Sing Liren, Ding Liren, Ding Liren”

The battles were fierce, the differences small
“Sing Liren, Ding Liren, Ding Liren”
And nobody really missed Magnus at all.
“Sing Liren, Ding Liren, Ding Liren”