China wins inaugural Nations Cup

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/11/2020 – A draw in the four-game Superfinal gave China tournament victory at the FIDE chess.com Nations Cup, as they obtained draw odds by winning the round-robin phase. After reaching the final in dramatic fashion, the United States were not far from completing an epic comeback by beating the Chinese squad twice in a row. Fabiano Caruana defeated Wei Yi on board two, but Yu Yangyi ended a memorable event with a win over Wesley So, tying the overall score. | Pictured: Yu Yangyi and Hou Yifan | Photos: qipai.org.con / Pascal Simon

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Yu Yangyi gets key win, again

There is no doubt China had the strongest and most stable performance throughout the Nations Cup, merely giving up a draw before losing their round-ten match-up against the United States, when they had already secured their spot in the final. It is also indisputable that Yu Yangyi was the heavy hitter in their line-up. Yu played all but one game, scoring a remarkable 7½ out of 10, with wins over elite players such as Anish Giri, Leinier Dominguez and Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

In a turn of events that consolidated Yu's exceptional performance, he got to even the score with the one player that had beaten him in the round-robin phase — Wesley So. And he did it with the same colour, only a day after his loss, giving his team tournament victory.

Yu's win served only to level the score though, as Fabiano Caruana got the better of Wei Yi on board two. The American had defeated Wang Hao twice during the round-robin section, so China's captain Ye Jiangchuan decided to field a different second board. This was Caruana's sixth win, which wrapped up his undefeated 7½/9 star performance. Thus, the two strongest players of the event were the ones getting wins in the Superfinal.

FIDE chess.com Nations Cup

FIDE chess.com Nations Cup

Top boards: Wei improvises, Nakamura stops trying    

At some point it seemed like the Americans had great chances to take the title, as Hikaru Nakamura had a good position with black against Ding Liren, while Wei's adventurous approach was backfiring against Caruana. But then, out of the blue, 'Naka' offered a draw from a slightly superior position:

 

Ding later confessed that he was surprised by his opponent's draw offer in this position, as after the forced 39.Rxe5 Black has 39...Qc7 pushing the king to return to the first rank with 40.Kg1 — this opened up the possibility for Black to later give a check with the rook on the a-file, gaining a valuable tempo in the endgame that would ensue once the queens leave the board. Of course, this is not easy to win at all, but given the United States' need for a match victory it would have made sense for Nakamura to test his rival a bit.

Meanwhile, Wei decided to avoid a theoretical discussion with Caruana by playing a Scandinavian with 4...g6, giving White the kind of strategical advantage a player of Caruana's calibre does not let go to waste. The American slowly increased his edge, but did not have an easy time converting his extra pawn in the ending. Wei faltered on move 30 though, prompting Caruana to gain another pawn soon after:

 

After 34.Nxg6 Ra1 White started pushing his kingside pawns with decisive effect. Resignation came on move 43.

Bottom boards: Yu on the attack

Irina Krush was facing women's number one Hou Yifan with the white pieces, and understandably decided to opt for the tame Exchange Variation of the French Defence. Hou did not try to get much with black either, as she knew her team only needed a 2:2 score to win the event. A 37-move draw was the natural result.

In the meantime, a confident Yu Yangyi correctly gave up a pawn in exchange for increased piece activity against Wesley So's undeveloped army. With Black's queenside pieces on their initial squares, Yu opened up his opponent's king position on move 26:

 

The Chinese star gave up his knight with 26.Ng5+ hxg5, and after 27.hxg5 Rg6 got to play a nice bishop move:

 

After 28.Bd5 So found nothing better than 28...f4, but then came 29.Be4 and the rook remained pinned until Black resigned five moves later.

 

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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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