Yu Yangyi beat Anish Giri and there were wins for Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun as top seeds China scored a perfect 100% on Day 1 of the FIDE Chess.com Online Nations Cup. Fabiano Caruana was the other top performer, scoring endgame wins over Vidit and Vladislav Artemiev to help the USA into 2nd place with a win over Russia and a draw against Europe. There are four more days of double rounds to go before the final match, with Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson commentating live here on chess24.
You can replay Jan and Peter’s commentary on Day 1 below – note that although no pgn file with the games was provided at the start we were eventually able to show the games:
As mentioned in our preview, the favourites were China, and they lived up to that reputation by scoring the only win of the opening round:
China scored 4/4 on boards 3 and 4 on the first day, and it helps that they have not just women’s no. 1 Hou Yifan but the current Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun. In Round 1 it was a repeat of the 2016 Women’s World Championship match as Hou Yifan had the black pieces against Mariya Muzychuk. 30…e4! posed immediate problems:
The c3-knight is attacked and 31.Nxe4?? would be a terrible mistake due to 31…Bd4, but 31.fxe4!, hitting the black queen, was possible, since 32…Bd4? 33.Qxd4+! is good for White. Instead, after 31.Qd2?, Hou Yifan could push with 31…e3! 32.Qc2 and Black was much better and went on to win. Yu Yangyi completed the win for China with a positional crush of Egypt’s Bassem Amin.
One of the most poignant parts of the Nations Cup is to see Levon Aronian back at the chessboard after the tragic death of his wife Arianne Caoili, but Russia’s Vladislav Artemiev wasn't going to make it a gentle return:
32.Rd5! was the most spectacular and best way to stop Black defending the g5-pawn (32.e5 was also strong), and after 32…Bxd5 33.Qxg5+ Kf8 34.cxd5 Re7 Vladislav found the most incisive follow-up 35.e5!
The white rook soon reigned supreme on the 4th rank as Artemiev wrapped up a win, but Jan-Krzysztof Duda scored an equally convincing win over Dmitry Andreikin to save the match.
India picked up a surprise draw against the USA after women’s no. 2 Humpy Koneru struck the final blow in a chaotic end to her game against Anna Zatonskih. 41.Rxc7? was the last mistake:
41…Qe5+ doesn’t win the rook due to 42.Qf4, but it does win the game on the spot since 42…Rxe3+! was now possible.
That left Fabiano Caruana needing to win on demand with an extra pawn against Vidit. He managed, though it required showing how to win with two bishops against a knight – he got there after 119 moves!
Caruana showed that his fine form from the Magnus Carlsen Invitational has gone nowhere as he repeated that feat to win another drawish looking endgame against the extremely tough Artemiev.
That left Ian Nepomniachtchi needing to beat Hikaru Nakamura to save a draw for Russia in the match, but instead he pushed too hard and lost in 138 moves.
China marched on, with Ju Wenjun beating Nana Dzagnidze comfortably on bottom board while Yu Yangyi won his second game of the day, this time against Anish Giri:
Giri’s 22.Re6!? only saw his rook get into difficulty after 22…Ne4!, though 23.Qh3! seems to save the day. After 23.f3? Kf7 Black won the exchange and later Yu Yangyi converted by giving back the extra material at the perfect time:
30…Rxe5! 31.dxe5+ Qxe5 and the threat of mate on e1 means Black keeps the extra pawn. Yu Yangyi won in 43 moves.
Our commentators were wondering what it would be like to play for Europe’s team captain, the legendary Beast from Baku, Garry Kasparov! He’d not known for his bedside manner:
Jan asked what Garry could do…
Those 5 words sounded even more ominous than usual. Garry is watching:
In the other match the Rest of the World picked up their
first points after Adhiban failed to stop Jorge Cori’s passed a-pawn in time,
while Alireza Firouzja held a deeply unpleasant position against Harikrishna.
That left the team standings as follows after Day 1 of the Online Nations Cup:
There are four more days of double rounds before the top two teams will play one final match on the last day.
Tune in each day for live commentary – and some Banter Blitz – from Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler live here on chess24!
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