Nations Cup: China in the final, Europe and USA to fight for second spot

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/9/2020 – China has secured a spot in Sunday's final at the FIDE chess.com Nations Cup, while Russia, India and Rest of the World are completely out of contention. The United States have climbed to second place and will fight for the remaining spot in the final with Europe, which only collected one match point on Friday — the contenders will face each other in round nine. | Pictured: Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Yu Yangyi and Hou Yifan star for China

The Chinese representatives have lost only two out of the 32 individual games they have played at the FIDE chess.com Nations Cup, thus securing a spot in Sunday's final match with two rounds to go. They won their two matches on Friday by the smallest possible margin, with Yu Yangyi and Hou Yifan scoring the single win needed to prevail in rounds seven and eight. Yu has been the big scorer for China, as he played in all but one round, winning four and drawing three on third board. Hou Yifan has not played as much, alternating with Ju Wenjun on bottom board, but has also been key for China's success, with three wins and one draw thus far.

The United States also won both their Friday match-ups, taking down Russia and Rest of the Word with a win apiece for their three top stars — Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So. Captain John Donaldson decided to maintain the same line-up in rounds seven and eight, fielding So and Irina Krush both times. The back-to-back wins allowed them to leapfrog Europe in the standings table, as they are now in sole second place.

Europe had a tough day, losing to China and drawing India, but will get a chance to greatly increase their chances to reach the final if they manage to beat the US in Saturday's first round. Captain Garry Kasparov also kept the same line-up in Friday's rounds, resting Anish Giri and Nana Dzagnidze in both matches. Will the ever-combative former world champion field Giri or Duda in the key encounter against the Americans? We will soon found out.

FIDE chess.com Nations Cup 2020

FIDE chess.com Nations Cup 2020

Round 7: China defeat Europe in hard-fought match

It was a very exciting seventh round, with then second-placed Europe facing the leaders from China. Ding Liren and Levon Aronian had better middlegame positions with white, but ended up only scoring draws. Anna Muzychuk and Ju Wenjun played an interesting game that finished peacefully as well.

In the deciding game, Yu got the better of Jan-Krzysztof Duda after leading a successful kingside attack with the white pieces:

 

White's earlier 30.e6 was a strong pawn push. Now the attack plays itself — 32.exf7+ Kh7 33.Ng5+ Kh8 (33...Kxh6 34.Qh4+ Kg7 35.Ne6#) 34.Bg7+ and Black resigned.


China 2½:1½ Europe

 

There were no quick draws in United States v Russia. Sergey Karjakin and Aleksandra Goryachkina had small advantages on bottom boards, but could not convert against So and Krush, while Vladislav Artemiev and Caruana agreed to a draw in a position with queens and seven pawns per side. 

At that point, Russia could have got in the fight for a spot in the final with a win, but their top board Ian Nepomniachtchi faltered again — 'Nepo' is having a tough time, as he has collected a disappointing 2 out of 8 score in the team event. Nakamura (5/8) outplayed his Russian colleague in a tricky rook endgame to get the crucial victory.


United States 2½:1½ Russia

 

India got their first victory at the Nations Cup by beating Rest of the World in round seven. Vishy Anand has had a strong performance on board one, and continued his strong showing with a win over Teimour Radjabov. Vidit Gujrathi, on the other hand, lost his fourth encounter in what was Alireza Firouzja's first win of the event. Pentala Harikrishna was the one to give his team match victory, and he did it with a fine-looking knight sacrifice:

 

Jorge Cori, playing black, resigned after the devastating 31.Nxe5 — Black's rooks and queen are overloaded with defensive tasks.

On bottom board, Mariya Muzychuk and Harika Dronavalli agreed to a 38-move draw.


India 2½:1½ Rest of the World

 

Round 8: United States climb to sole second place

The American squad reached 11 match points with their 3:1 win over Rest of the World. So inflicted Cori's second straight loss by showcasing his strength in technical positions, while Caruana and Bassem Amin played an eye-catching encounter in which they traded exchange sacrifices in a fierce fight to get the initiative. Once Amin made a small concession, Caruana was merciless on the kingside:

 

The world number two broke through with 32.Bxh5 Nxe4 33.Bxg6+ fxg6 34.Qh4+ Kg8 35.Nxe4 Qe5 and 36.Qh6. The Egyptian grandmaster threw in the towel.

Firouzja v Nakamura and Krush v M. Muzychuk finished drawn after less than forty moves.


United States 3:1 Rest of the World

 

Europe could not keep up with the Americans in the standings table, as they drew India in round eight. Humpy Koneru returned to the Asian team's line-up and drew Anna Muzychuk with white after both missed chances in a lengthy encounter. Anand, in the meantime, comfortably split the point with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave while playing black.

India's boards two and three reversed their roles from the previous round, as Vidit beat Aronian and Harikrishna lost against Duda in the decisive games of the match-up.


Europe 2:2 India

 

Russia were already out of contention to reach the final, but they were nonetheless close to repeating the draw they obtained against the Chinese in their first confrontation of the event. Nepomniachtchi and Karjakin played white and split the point with Ding and Wei after exactly 30 moves, while Artemiev failed to convert a superior rook and knight endgame with black against Wang.

The one win for the Chinese came on board four, as women's number one Hou Yifan defeated the latest challenger for the World Championship crown, Aleksandra Goryachkina, from the white side of a French Defence.


China 2½:1½ Russia

 

Standings after Round 8

Rk. Team 1a 1b 2a 2b 3a 3b 4a 4b 5a 5b 6a 6b MP BP
1 China * *   3 2   3 15 21,5
2 USA   * * 1   3 2 3 11 18
3 Europe 1 3   * * 2 2   10 17
4 Russia 2 1 2 * * 2   3   5 14,5
5 India   2 2 2   * * 5 14,5
6 Rest of the World 1 ½ 1   1   * * 2 10,5

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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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