China and the USA are the teams that will face each other in Sunday's Superfinal of the FIDE Chess.com Online Nations Cup. In a dramatic turn of events, the USA lost in the 9th round against its direct rival, Europe, but then defeated China in the 10th and final round to get their ticket to the final. Despite beating the USA in both their direct encounters, Europe lost its chance of reaching the final by drawing against the "Rest of the World" team in the very last round.
FIDE Chess.com Online Nations Cup final standings:
The big clash between the USA and Europe was likely going to decide the fight for second place, considering the pairings for the final round where the USA would face the leader China, while Europe would play the Rest of the World.
After three tense games on the top three boards, where Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was closest to a win vs. Hikaru Nakamura, it was the ladies' board where this key match was decided. Nana Dzagnidze always had a slight edge and eventually outplayed Irina Krush in a rook endgame.
With no chance for qualifying for the final, team captain Vishy Anand and player Vishy Anand must have agreed that he could take the day of. Meanwhile, Yu Yangyi was the absolute star player of this event, at least for nine rounds. He improved his score even further to 6.5/8 with another excellent win, this time against Baskaran Adhiban.
In a match that was only played for the history books, Sergey Karjakin learned the hard way how fast Alireza Firouzja has improved lately, as he was completely outplayed and then beaten in a kingside attack.
Europe was going into the final round a match point ahead of the USA, and as said, with a much better pairing. But the unthinkable happened. While Europe couldn't win their match, the USA did manage. After the team exchanged blows on first and second boards, Wesley So became the first player to beat Yu in this tournament, and with that win, he secured two match points for the USA.
Where did it go wrong for Europe? As always, it's a team effort but the one board that went lost was Levon Aronian's game with Firouzja. Unfortunately, for Aronian and his team, the Iranian star had his best day of the event as he scored 2/2 with two fine games.
In another match where not much was at stake, Vladislav Artemiev stole the show with a flashy attack on Vidit Gujrathi's king:
22. Rxa7+! Kxa7 23. Qa3+ Kb6 24. Qb4+ Kc6 25. Qb7+ Kxc5 26. Bb4# 1-0
Tomorrow's Superfinal will start an hour later, so 7:00 a.m. Pacific / 10 a.m. Eastern / 16:00 CEST. China will have white on boards one and three. As the winner of the round-robin, China got to choose and also has draw odds in the one match that is the final.
In other words, the USA needs to do again what no other team managed: beat China. Again.
The tournament is being 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
Text: Peter Doggers (chess.com)