In May, Ding Liren reached the pinnacle of the chess world, succeeding Magnus Carlsen as the World Chess Champion.
However, since then, the 31-year-old Chinese grandmaster has been shrouded in mystery, having not participated in a chess tournament for eight months.
Liren's ascent to the top wasn't marked by a dramatic showdown on the chessboard, as Carlsen chose not to defend his title.
This left Liren to claim victory over Russian player Jan Nepomniachtchi in the finals held in Astana, Kazakhstan. But soon after this achievement, Liren disappeared from the public eye.
According to an interview with chess.com, Liren has been struggling with health issues, though he did not disclose the specifics of his condition.
Since his last tournament appearance in Romania in May, where he finished eighth, Liren has withdrawn from consecutive tournaments and announced a hiatus from professional chess for the rest of 2023. He plans to return to the sport in January 2024 for the Tata Steel tournament in Holland.
Liren's absence and vague references to illness have raised concerns among fans and the chess community.
After returning to China post-victory, he gave interviews expressing a sense of exhaustion and a lack of joy in his accomplishments, suggesting a desire to seek fulfillment beyond the chess world.
The world champion then vanished from the public eye until recently when he made a surprise appearance as a co-commentator at a Chinese chess event on a local TV channel in October.
Currently, the International Chess Federation ranks Ding Liren as the world's third-best chess player, behind Magnus Carlsen and American Fabiano Caruana.
The chess world awaits further updates on Ding Liren's condition and his eventual return to the game. His sudden withdrawal and subsequent silence have left many pondering the pressures faced by top athletes in the mental and physical aspects of their sport.