Nations Cup: United States to play China in the Superfinal

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/10/2020 – There was no lack of drama on the last day of the round-robin section at the Nations Cup, as United States qualified to Sunday's Superfinal by outscoring Europe by merely a half board point. Europe had beaten the Americans in their direct round-nine clash, but could not overcome Rest of the World to get their spot in the final, while United States inflicted China's first loss of the event. The Chinese squad will get a chance to take revenge on Sunday, when the action kicks off one hour later than usual. | Pictured: Wesley So | Photo: Niki Riga

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The final: USA v China 

With China qualified to Sunday's Superfinal after round eight, all eyes were on the direct match-up between Europe and United States in round nine — the only two teams with chances to get second place. Europe got the all-important victory thanks to a win by Nana Dzagnidze on board four, which meant a win over tail-enders Rest of the World would secure them a ticket to the final.

Not only were the Europeans paired up against the worst-performing team of the event but also the United States had to face the undefeated Chinese squad. Hikaru Nakamura lost for the first time in the event, against Ding Liren, but Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So came to the rescue, scoring fantastic wins to give their team match victory. Meanwhile, Europe could not finish the job against Rest of the World, as Alireza Firouzja scored his second win of the day in his game against Levon Aronian, leaving the Europeans out of contention — a tie on match points between the US and Europe meant board points would decide who gets through, with the Americans getting 22 to Europe's 21½!

China and United States thus will play a second consecutive match on Sunday. The same format will be used in the Superfinal, with China both getting to pick in which boards they get white (they chose boards 1 and 3) and getting draw odds after winning the round-robin phase. The final kicks off one hour later than usual.

FIDE chess.com Nations Cup 2020

FIDE chess.com Nations Cup 2020

Round 9: Dzagnidze the European heroine

Europe got a 2½:1½ win over the United States with three draws and a win on board four, but they could have easily collected another individual win in the key match-up, as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave missed a big chance to defeat Nakamura with the black pieces:

 

White cannot defend against the kingside attack after 32...h3, while Vachier-Lagrave's 32...Rh8 gave Nakamura a tempo to organize his defences. The game ended drawn six moves later.

Georgian star Nana Dzagnidze was the one giving her team the crucial victory, as she got a full point for a third straight time in the event.


Europe 2½:1½ United States

 

Russia v Rest of the World was the first match of the tournament to feature four decisive games, with the Russians winning on bottom boards, while Teimour Radjabov and Alireza Firouzja scored their first wins of the event for Rest of the World. 


Russia 2:2 Rest of the World

 

China continued with their strong showing by beating India 2½:1½. Once again, an inspired Yu Yangyi got the sole win that got his team two match points. Yu defeated Adhiban with the black pieces.


China 2½:1½ India

 

Round 10: Caruana gets fifth win

World number two Fabiano Caruana has been showing he can also excel at rapid and blitz — some years ago, he performed below his usual superb level in accelerated time controls. In the key round-ten match-up against China, he faced Wang Hao's Petroff Defence, a system he used successfully prior to his 2018 World Championship match against Carlsen. The American went for it on the kingside and got a fine attacking win:

 

Time to convert the positional trumps into a lethal attack — 22.Bxh7+ Kh8 23.Bf5 Nxf5 24.Qxf5 Kg8 25.h5 Qc6 26.Nxf7 Kxf7 (Black now takes the material) 27.g5 Qd7 28.Qg6+ and Wang resigned. With this win, Caruana finished the first phase of the event on a remarkable 6½/8 score and will surely be included in the line-up on Sunday.

Nakamura, in the meantime, was defeated by Ding, who is still undefeated (5½/8). Irina Krush was held to a draw by women's world champion Ju Wenjun, while Wesley So scored a fine win over none other than China's hero this week — Yu Yangyi.


United States 2½:1½ China

 

Given how solid China's performance had been throughout the tournament, a draw for Europe in round ten should have been enough to get the pass to the final, but it was not to be for the team captained by Garry Kasparov. Vachier-Lagrave and Dzagnidze drew Radjabov and Dinara Saduakassova, while Jan-Krzysztof Duda did his job on board three by beating Amin Bassem with the white pieces. 

However, Aronian was paired up against an in-form Firouzja on board two. The wunderkind has proven that he can beat any player in the world on a good day, although he is still lacking some consistency to reach the very top. Unfortunately for Aronian, the 16-year-old created the kind of position in which his quick tactical eye is a major asset. After beating Karjakin the previous round, Firouzja finished the event with a second straight win, thus reaching a respectable 5½/10 score.


Rest of the World 2:2 Europe

 

It was a rather disappointing tournament both for Russia and India. In their direct match-up of round ten, nor Ian Nepomniachtchi nor Vishy Anand were included in the line-up, and Russia ended up prevailing 2½:1½. Vladislav Artemiev defeated Vidit, Dmitry Andreikin beat Adhiban and Humpy Koneru got the better of Olga Girya.

Vidit did not have the best of performances, as he finished on 2 out of 8. The Indian star offered an apology on Twitter:


Russia 2½:1½ India

 

Standings after Round 10

Rk. Team 1a 1b 2a 2b 3a 3b 4a 4b 5a 5b 6a 6b MP BP
1 China * * 3 2 3 17 25½
2 USA * * 1 3 2 3 13 22
3 Europe 1 3 * * 2 2 2 13 21½
4 Russia 2 1 2 * * 2 3 2 8 19
5 India 2 2 2 * * 5 17½
6 Rest of the World 1 ½ 1 2 1 2 * * 4 14½

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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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Leavenfish Leavenfish 5/10/2020 06:20
No way 'draw odds' is fair for a 'Super Final'. Sure, you can reward a team that blitzed thru like China did to the final, but draw odds in a small 4 game match is insane. Maybe 3 Whites on the boards of their choice or some such?
calcomar calcomar 5/10/2020 02:49
@CatalanFischer - Fixed. Thanks!
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 5/10/2020 02:39
Draw odds could be considered as fair. If the tournament had been a double round robin, which they generally are, such as in the Candidates for example, China would already have won. Having draw odds gives meaning to winning the double round robin while still giving some chances to the runner-up.
lwquig lwquig 5/10/2020 12:46
The Chinese get to pick which boards they will have White and they have draw odds. Yeah. Plus the Chinese have
a 200 plus point rating advantage on the women's board. The Americans must play blindfold and give rook odds.
In addition, if any Chinese player gets an inferior position, the American's internet connection will be cut and
the Chinese awarded the point on time forfeit. Seems fair.
anthonyy anthonyy 5/10/2020 11:36
why not Team A with White on Boards 1 and 4, and Team B with White
on Boards 2 and 3 ?
catalanFischer catalanFischer 5/10/2020 09:43
The Russia vs. ROTW is repeated while Europe vs.ROTW is missing
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