Nations Cup: China lead after day one

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/6/2020 – Day one of the FIDE chess.com Nations Cup saw China getting the sole lead after winning both his matches, over Rest of the World and Europe. The Chinese squad got 3:1 wins in both matches, with Yu Yangyi scoring full points both times. United States are in second place on 3 match points, after drawing India and beating Europe. Fabiano Caruana led the American team by getting two victories in close to equal endgames. | Photos: FIDE

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No real underdog

It is difficult to talk about favourites in a rapid event with six very strong teams including two reserve players — which allows each of them to always put forth a line-up with those in better form. Nevertheless, a factor other than rating makes the Chinese team a slight front-runner: the presence of two super strong female players, world number one Hou Yifan and current world champion Ju Wenjun. On day one, both Hou and Ju scored full points and helped Yu Yangyi — who finished the day on 2 out of 2 — give their team 3:1 victories.

Furthermore, Yu Yangyi is the lowest-rated male member of the squad led by Candidates Ding Liren and Wang Hao and young gun Wei Yi. The Chinese are also known for being a very tight group, which led the open team to win gold medals at the 2014 and 2018 Olympiads.

On the other end of the stick, the "Rest of the World" team might seem to be the clear dark horse, at least rating-wise. However, if we look into the line-up we note the presence of three young probably-underrated players, who are also very likely used the playing online — Alireza Firouzja, Jorge Cori and Dinara Saduakassova. On day one, the ROTW upset India in round two, after Cori defeated Adhiban on board three.

FIDE chess.com Nations Cup 2020

Round 1: Hou back in business

China beat the ROTW in round one, with wins on bottom boards by Yu Yangyi and Hou Yifan. The world number one female player is currently studying for a Master of Public Policy at Oxford University, which has kept her away from the chessboards for a while now. She demonstrated, however, by beating Mariya Muzychuk with black, that her chess skills are very much still there. 

This match also saw the former number one in the world juniors list facing the current number one, as Wei Yi drew wunderkind Alireza Firouzja with black. Teimour Radjabov drew Wang Hao on board one.


China 3:1 Rest of the World
 

Vishy Anand, who used to skip representing India in Chess Olympiads from 2006 until 2018 is now leading his country's squad on board one. His friend, Vladimir Kramnik, is the captain of the team. In round one, he was on the better side of a draw against the United States' Hikaru Nakamura while marshalling the white pieces.

Another draw was singed on board three, where Harikrishna had white against Leinier Dominguez. Humpy Koneru, who had a good semester prior to the coronavirus crisis, defeated Anna Zatonskih, which meant Fabiano Caruana needed a win against Vidit to tie the score — the world number two displayed strong fighting spirit and good technique to win an endgame with two bishops against knight and pawn.


India 2:2 United States
 

In Europe v Russia, the current co-leaders of the Candidates Tournament, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ian Nepomniachtchi, drew a hard fought 49-move game. Anna Muzychuk held a draw with black against the ever-dangerous Aleksandra Goryachkina and Jan-Krzysztof Duda kicked off the event with a convincing win over Dmitry Andreikin.

On board two, Vladislav Artemiev beat Levon Aronian with white to tie the score for the Russians. A good-looking rook manoeuvre gave Artemiev a decisive advantage:

 

32.Rd5 was the killer blow. Aronian responded with the correct 32...Bxd5, but could only defend until move 48, when he conceded defeat.


Europe 2:2 Russia
 

Round 2: Cori gives ROTW their first match win

After drawing the strong American squad, India fell against the Rest of the World. Anand and Humpy signed quick draws against Radjabov and Muzychuk, while Harikrishna was the one pushing against Firouzja — the youngster was a pawn down in a bishop endgame, but managed to hold the balance in the end.

The deciding game of the match was Cori v Adhiban. The Indian known as 'the Beast' failed to find a way to stop Cori's passed a-pawn in a complex position:

 

Black needed to look for counterplay with 46...Ne1 or 46...Rc1, as his 46...Ke6 was simply too slow. The Peruvian grandmaster promoted his a-pawn six moves later, giving his team a commendable victory.


Rest of the World 2½:1½ India
 

The United States scored a fine 3:1 win over Russia. Wesley So and Irina Krush drew on bottom boards, while round-one winners Caruana and Artemiev were in the midst of an interesting strategical battle. Caruana had the upper hand throughout, and once again showed his class by beating his technically skilled opponent in a rook endgame.

Nepomniachtchi, on board one, saw his compatriot had lost and started trying to outplay Nakamura in an equal knight endgame. The Russian's attempts backfired, as 'Naka' ended up getting a 138-move win.


United States 3:1 Russia
 

China scored their second win of the day by beating the European squad. Ding Liren made his debut and drew Vachier-Lagrave with black, while Wei Yi could not get much with the white pieces against Aronian. Women's world champion Ju Wenjun, who also played for the first time in round two, defeated Nana Dzagnidze from Georgia, and Yu Yangyi got the better of Anish Giri after the latter was overly optimistic with white.

Team captain of Europe Garry Kasparov later tweeted:

Tough one for my Team Europe today against a very strong Chinese squad. Will need a match win tomorrow!


China 3:1 Europe
 

Standings after Round 2

Rk. Team MP BP
1 China 4 6
2 USA 3 5
3 Rest of the World 2
4 India 1
5 Europe 1 3
6 Russia 1 3

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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Denix Denix 5/6/2020 09:06
What a game by Hou Yifan from a Kings Indian Defence player's point of view. A Knight's Tour and Gufeld Bishop unleashed for a winning endgame.
onkel bräsig onkel bräsig 5/6/2020 08:44
Yet another interesting event! I am amazed to see Aronian playing. Again I wish all the best for him and his closest people around him!
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