A few months after Ding Liren became the World Chess Champion by defeating Ian Nepomniachtchi in a tiebreaker in Astana, he opened up about an Uzbek grandmaster who helped him beat the Russian.
While Richard Rapport was an uncharacteristically noticeable presence in Ding’s corner in Astana for the entire duration of the World Championship clash, the Chinese star had help from others as well. One of these was Uzbekistan’s Jakhongir Vakhidov.
Ding made the revelation during an interview with New In Chess magazine.
The name of seconds — or trainers who work with World Championship contenders — is traditionally a closely-guarded secret. However, Rapport was very visible at Astana’s St Regis, where the championship clash happened.
The Chinese grandmaster made history by beating Nepo as he became only the first man from China to wear the crown. China has a rich legacy of women’s world chess champions.
Ding also told the magazine that he convinced both Vakhidov and Rapport to work with him at the closing ceremony of the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee last January. Vakhidov was not competing at the event but was helping the prodigy Javokhir Sindarov, who is a compatriot.
The report also quotes Ding as saying that there was a proposal for Ding to take on world no 1 Magnus Carlsen in rapid and Chess960 games (Fischer random chess) at the end of the year in Argentina.