Nations Cup: China still on top, Aronian impresses

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/7/2020 – Europe had a tough first day, losing to China and drawing Russia, but are now well in the fight for first place after winning both their matches on Wednesday at the FIDE chess.com Nations Cup. Levon Aronian was the star of the Europeans, as he got impressive back-to-back wins over Vidit Gujrathi and Leinier Dominguez. China remain in the sole lead nevertheless, two match points ahead of chasers Europe and United States. | Photos: FIDE

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Europe climb up the standings

The one team that got two wins on day two of the FIDE chess.com Nations Cup was Europe. Captained by Garry Kasparov, the Europeans have collected five match points overall and are tied in second place with the United States, after beating the Americans in a key encounter of round four. In round three, they had defeated India by the smallest of margins thanks to a remarkable win by Levon Aronian, who went on to score a second straight full point when he took down Leinier Dominguez.

China are still leading, as they are the only team not to have lost a match yet. On Wednesday, they gave up the first match point of the event when they drew Russia in round three.

The double round-robin section of the tournament will decide the two teams that will play in Sunday's final. By now, it seems unlikely China will not get one of the two spots, while Europe, United States and Russia are well ahead of Rest of the World and India in the fight to reach the conclusive match-up. 

FIDE chess.com Nations Cup 2020

FIDE chess.com Nations Cup 2020

Round 3: Aronian's cool find

Rarely do we get to see the kind of trick Armenian star Levon Aronian employed to defeat Vidit Gujrathi in the only decisive game of Europe v India. The players had reached an ending with queens, four pawns per side and bishops of opposite colours. Vidit made the wrong passing bishop move, and Aronian quickly found the surprising winning manoeuvre:

 

47.b4 wins. After 47...axb3 48.Bb2, Black's pieces are paralyzed — the light-squared bishop cannot move other than to b1 and the queen is stuck defending g7. Aronian quickly started pushing his a-pawn down the board and soon after got the win.

In the remaining games, both teams missed good chances — Harikrishna could not convert from a strong attacking position against Jan-Krzysztof Duda, while Anna Muzychuk was not precise enough to take advantage of his superior setup against Humpy Koneru. Vishy Anand and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave signed a correct 41-move draw.


Europe 2½:1½ India

 

In China v Russia, the day-one leaders found themselves quickly on the back foot, as Artemiev got a quick 25-move win over Wei Yi with the white pieces. The stars of the first two rounds, Yu Yangyi and Ju Wenjun, drew on bottom boards, which meant top seed Ding Liren needed to win to tie the score.

Ding was playing white against Ian Nepomniachtchi and apparently surprised his Russian colleague out of a Grünfeld Defence. 'Nepo' put up a strong fight, finding clever resources to complicate his opponent's task. Ding was as sharp as ever though, prevailing in the end and maintaining China's undefeated run in the event.


China 2:2 Russia

 

The United States' biggest weakness rating-wise lie in their female representatives, but in round three it was Irina Krush who gave the Americans a key victory over Rest of the World. The seven-time US women's champion played the Sicilian against Dinara Saduakassova, grabbed a pawn on move 15 and never looked back, eventually giving back the material but getting two strong connected passers on the e and f-files. Saduakassova resigned after 44 moves.

Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So both had white and were held to comfortable draws by Teimour Radjabov and Bassem Amin, respectively, while Alireza Firouzja v Leinier Dominguez was a sharp fight that saw both players missing winning chances.


United States 2½:1½ Rest of the World

 

Round 4: Europe beat the United States

Given the standings after three rounds, Europe v United States was the key match of round four. Nakamura drew Vachier-Lagrave with black on board one, and, by then, Nana Dzagnidze already had a clear advantage over Anna Zatonskih — the Georgian eventually converted her edge into a win. But Dzagnidze was not the only player from the Caucasus that would succeed in that round, as Aronian played a sideline of the Petroff with black and went on to almost mate Dominguez after a sharp fight:

 

White's passers look dangerous, but Black's rooks on the second rank are just lethal. Dominguez resigned after 47...Rg2+ 48.Kh1 Nh3 with mate-in-3 on the board.

The last game to end was Anish Giri v Wesley So, in which So kept trying to squeeze a win from an equal 3v2 rook endgame. The point was split after White's 88th move.


Europe 3:1 United States

 

The Chinese got their third victory of the event against India. On board four, the two highest-rated women players revived a long-standing old rivalry, as Humpy Koneru and Hou Yifan ended up drawing a 38-move game. Anand had some difficulties but managed to hold the balance with black against Ding on top board, while Harikrishna did the same against Yu.

It was Wang Hao's turn to give his team match victory. The 30-year-old inflicted Vidit's third defeat of the event after the Indian lost the thread with white as early as move 17. 


China 2½:1½ India

 

Russia remained in the fight to reach Sunday's final by getting a 3:1 win over Rest of the World. Sergey Karjakin, who made his debut on day two, beat Jorge Cori on board three, after the latter missed a chance to get the upper hand on move 23, while Nepomniachtchi bounced back from two consecutive losses by defeating Teimour Radjabov on top board. Both Karjakin and Nepomniachtchi were playing white.

Firouzja was a pawn up against Artemiev but could not break the defences of the talented Russian, finally agreeing to a draw on move 77. Olga Girya also made her debut on Wednesday, and split the point with Mariya Muzychuk in an 84-move game. 


Russia 3:1 Rest of the World

 

Standings after Round 4

# Team 1a 1b 2a 2b 3a 3b 4a 4b 5a 5b 6a 6b MP BP
1 China * * 3       2   3     7 10½
2 Europe 1   * * 3   2         5
3 USA     1   * * 3     2   5
4 Russia 2   2   1   * * 3       4 8
5 Rest of the World 1         1   * *   2 6
6 India     2         * * 1

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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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tom_70 tom_70 5/8/2020 05:11
One look at Aronian and you can tell he's hurting.
chessbibliophile chessbibliophile 5/8/2020 03:16
She who left him for the other world (it was destiny) would say, "Grieve not for me, I shall rejoice for you."
goeland goeland 5/7/2020 08:10
Respect for Aronian who is coming back from this personal tragic event
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 5/7/2020 05:24
someone has to fire for India......Koneru, Hari and the beast are my choice...come on...
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