China takes an early lead at the FIDE Chess.com Online Nations Cup, being the only team to win both matches on the first day of play. The USA team scored a 3-1 victory over Russia in the second round and trails the Chinese by one point. Fabiano Caruana (USA) and Yu Yangyi (CHN) are the two only players to have won both their games today.
China, the top seed in the competition, started right out of the gate by defeating the "Rest of the World" team in the first round, with two victories and two draws (3-1). Hou Yifan, who for the past two years has been taking some time apart from competitive chess, didn't disappoint in her return to the Chinese national team and won a fine game against Mariya Muzychuk with black pieces.
In the second round, the Chinese squad repeated its first-round result against Europe: two draws on the top boards, and two victories on the lower boards. Yu Yangyi scored his second consecutive victory, defeating the Dutch Anish Giri. This time, the current Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun took the place of Hou Yifan defending the fourth board and wrapped the result of her team with a nice victory over Nana Dzagnidze. "Many of our players are friends and they train together. For us, it is also an honor and a pleasure to be in the national team," stated Ju Wenjun once the games were over.
The USA didn't have an easy start, and in fact, their first-round match against India could have gone either way. The five-time World Champion Vishy Anand had the upper hand in his game against Hikaru Nakamura, and Anna Zatonskih was outplayed by Humpy Koneru. Leinier Dominguez was never in serious trouble, but he had to play very precisely with black against an aggressive Pentala Harikrishna, who went all-in with his opening choice.
Being one point down, the USA depended on Fabiano Caruana's winning his game to level the score in the match. The 2018 World Challenger did a fine job converting his two-bishop advantage. Fabiano ended up with two bishops against a single knight with no pawns on the board. Computers demonstrated that this type of position is winning for the stronger side and Fabiano did not disappoint.
The second round went smoother for the Americans: Caruana again decided his game with very fine endgame play against Vladislav Artemiev. Wesley So drew against Dmitry Andreikin, and Irina Krush held the dangerous Aleksandra Goryachkina to a draw. In the remaining game, Ian Nepomniachtchi exerted some pressure on the position of Hikaru Nakamura but the American transposed into an equal double knight endgame. As it often happens in must-win situations, Ian took it too far and capitulated on move 138.
This defeat was a serious blow for the Russians, who had previously drawn the first-round match against Europe (the teams exchanged blows on second and third boards with Artemiev and Duda winning over Aronian and Andreikin respectively). While their team is missing some of their top guns, like Grischuk, Dubov, or Lagno, Russia is still the third seed in the competition and is supposed to be a serious contender for the victory.
The "Rest of the World" team may be the underdog according to the ratings, but today's results already prove that the first FIDE Chess.com Online Nations Cup is going to be a very hard-fought competition. Especially when a team includes young talents like Alireza Firouzja and Jorge Cori, ratings aren't everything.
In the first round, the team captained by the FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich went down against China, after being outplayed on the two lower boards. But they immediately bounced back in the match vs. Team India, thanks to Peruvian Grandmaster Jorge Cori's victory over Adhiban on board three. With two points, the "Rest of the World" team sits in third place.
The tournament takes place May 5-10, 2020. The group stage runs May 5-9, with two rounds per day. The Superfinal is played on May 10. The games start 15:00 CEST / 9 a.m. Eastern / 6 a.m. Pacific.
The tournament will be broadcast live across multiple outlets including FIDE's and Chess.com's own channels across Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, Twitter, and other international streaming platforms. With an estimated audience of several million worldwide, commentary by chess experts will be conducted in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish, and Polish. You can watch live broadcasts and replays on FIDE YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmDtpw5HJEQ
More information in our initial press release about the event.