Nations Cup: China and Europe on a roll

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/8/2020 – China and Europe won both their Thursday games and are now in clear first and second places respectively at the FIDE Nations Cup. With four rounds to go, the United States and especially Russia need to rack up a streak of good results if they want to reach Sunday's final. India and Rest of the World are having a tough time in the online event. | Pictured: Ding Liren and Wei Yi. | Photos: FIDE / Amruta Mokal

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Europe in sole second place

Most of the matches at the FIDE Nations Cup have been hard-fought affairs so far, but two teams have managed to score when it matters the most. Both China and Europe have drawn Russia and beaten all other teams below them in the standings table — China's 3:1 win in their round-two direct confrontation is what keeps them two points ahead of the Europeans.

There is no real weak link among the Chinese representatives, with Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun showing why they have won multiple Women's World Championship titles, as both of them have remarkable 2½/3 scores in the online event. Meanwhile, the Europeans have fielded a solid Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on top board in all six rounds and have seen the ever-creative Levon Aronian winning three games in a row for a 4/6 performance.

The United States, who are two points behind Europe, have two in-form top boards in Hikaru Nakamura (3½/6) and Fabiano Caruana (3½/4), but will need Leinier Dominguez (1/4) to step up his game if they want to fight for the top spots. The Cuban-born grandmaster has played as many games as Wesley So (2½/4) so far, and it is up to captain John Donaldson to decide whether this strategy is the best way forward given the tournament situation. 


FIDE Nations Cup 2020

FIDE Nations Cup 2020

Round 5: Anand's killer novelty

The biggest sensation of the round came less than ten minutes after the day's action had kicked off. The top-board confrontation in India v Russia saw Vishy Anand uncorking a novelty on move 12 against Ian Nepomniachtchi out of a Grünfeld Defence. 'Nepo' was not able to find the best response and was completely lost two moves later:


Anand knew 15.f5 gave him a winning position here, as after 15...Bxc4 16.e5 Qd7 (16...Qc6 was better in order to play ...Nd7 next) 17.f6 all Black can do is resign. In an interview afterwards, Anand confessed his second Radoslaw Wojtaszek already had this novelty among his analyses ten years ago! 

This surprisingly quick win was not enough to give India their first match victory of the event. Adhiban Baskaran and Harika Dronavalli drew Sergey Karjakin and Olga Girya on bottom boards, but Pentala Harikrishna could not hold the balance against Vladislav Artemiev, as an unfortunate mouse slip blundered the game away in one move — Harikrishna intended to play 44...Ne1+ instead of the losing 44...Nd2.

India 2:2 Russia


China obtained their fourth win of the event by beating the United States 2½:1½. Yu Yangyi and Hou Yifan, much like in round one, were the heroes for their team, as they defeated Leinier Dominguez and Irina Krush on boards three and four. Ding Liren held a draw with black against Nakamura, while Wang Hao lost his game against fellow Candidate Fabiano Caruana.

This was Caruana's third straight win for the American squad. The world number two had a pair of knights against Wang's knight and bishop in a completely closed position, and found himself winning after the Chinese incorrectly decided to open up the kingside.

China 2½:1½ United States


Europe's win over Rest of the World was similar to the one obtained by their Chinese counterparts. Anish Giri's loss against Bassem Amin on board three meant they needed two individual wins to get the valuable two match points. Following their pair of wins in round four, the representatives from the Caucasus — Levon Aronian and Nana Dzagnidze — once again scored full points to keep their team in sole second place.

Aronian outplayed Alireza Firouzja in a tricky rook endgame, while Dzagnidze duly converted her pawn advantage against Dinara Saduakassova.  

Europe 2½:1½ Rest of the World


Round 6: Nepomniachtchi's woes continue

Russia's top board Ian Nepomniachtchi has played all six games of the event thus far and has lost four of them. It must be noted that the player from Bryansk lost an equal ending against Nakamura while trying to salvage a draw for his team and was unlucky as he ran into Anand's aforementioned novelty in round five. Against Europe's Vachier-Lagrave, 'Nepo' was fighting from an inferior position for quite a while until he entered what at times seemed to be a defensible ending:


91.Kh2 was the Russian's decisive mistake, as after 91...Ka3 White cannot play 92.Rf3 due to 92...b1Q 93.Rxb1 Qxf3. Instead, Nepomniachtchi could have continued defending with 91.Kg2, when Black cannot capture on f3 in the variation mentioned above. White played 92.Rf7, but ended up losing an 111-move marathon. 

Draws on all remaining boards gave Europe another key victory, their fourth in a row.

Europe 2½:1½ Russia


Anand could have got a 2 out of 2 for the day had he managed to convert a tricky superior position against the ever-resourceful Nakamura, but in the end his team lost their fourth match of the event as So got the better of Adhiban on board three. Vidit and Koneru drew Caruana and Krush with the white pieces.

It was So's first victory of the tournament. The Americans will play a key match-up in round seven, as they face fourth-placed Russia in Friday's first match-up.

United States 2½:1½ India


For the first time in the event, a team got a 3½:½ victory (no whitewash was seen at the Nations Cup), as China won three and drew one against Rest of the World. Ding Liren, Wei Yi and Ju Wenjun won their games to score the massive win. Particularly interesting was to see Wei Yi beating Firouzja, as both players are regarded as likely contenders for the World Championship title in the future. 

China 3½:½ Rest of the World


Standings after Round 6

Rk. Team 1a 1b 2a 2b 3a 3b 4a 4b 5a 5b 6a 6b MP BP
1 China * * 3     2     3 11 16,5
2 Europe 1   * * 3   2     9 13,5
3 USA   1   * * 3   2   7 12,5
4 Russia 2   2 1   * * 2   3   5 11,5
5 India     2 2   * *   2 10
6 Rest of the World 1 ½     1     * * 2 8


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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