Viswanathan Anand is a very rare chess phenomenon. The five-time world champion shines at 50 in the Nations Cup, an online tournament in the fast mode, where age is a bigger drag in theory than in the classic. With two rounds to go before the league ends in a double round, China is assured of its presence in Sunday’s final. The other place is between the US and Europe, who meet on Saturday, with an advantage for the Americans.
Anand is now 15th in the world list of slow games, 17th in fast games (if this tournament were counted, it would be higher) and 9th in lightning mode. No one else is 50 in the top 40 in slow games; and only one in the other two ranks: the Israeli Borís Guélfand (51 years, 38º) and Alexéi Dréiev (51, 37º), respectively.
The decline of elite chess players usually begins between the ages of 35 and 40. And, since the speed of reflexes is inversely proportional to age, it is assumed that age is more noticeable in fast modes. But all this is relative if we talk about the brilliant Indian, baptized since his youth as El Rapido de Madrás (his hometown, now Chennai), who at that time explained to EL PAÍS why he played at such a speed, even against the greats stars, like Gari Kaspárov or Anatoli Kárpov: “It is that, if I think, I am wrong.”
Although that obviously changed soon and he thinks much more now than then, the basic idea of such a principle is still valid: Anand captures the essence of positions with amazing speed, in just a few seconds. And to this must be added his meticulous preparation of the openings, apart from how much he takes care of his physical resistance. This explains why yesterday the Russian Ian Niepómniachi struck the 4th in the world in only 17 movements; and that today he has imposed himself in an unappealable manner in the 7th round on one of the toughest on the circuit, the Azerbaijani Teimur Radyábov, and has drawn in the 8th with the French Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 2nd in the world in rapids.
Thanks to the performance of its first board, undefeated with five points in eight games, India has had its best day today, on the 4th day, with a victory over the Rest of the World and a draw with Europe (Vidit beat Aronián), which complicates Vachier-Lagrave team qualification for the final very much. Europe (with one less point) will face the USA in the penultimate round; and their last meetings will be China-USA and Europe-Rest of the World.
Yangyi Yu María Emeliánova / Chess.com
While Niepomniachi’s poor performance (2 points in 8 games) on the first board has left Russia out of the final (even though Artémiev leads 5 of 8 in the second), China is going as a shot. His most prominent player is Yangyi Yu (5.5 out of 7), but nobody is out of place. His main unknown was the performance of Yifán Hou after his almost two sabbatical years to study International Relations at the University of Oxford; but her performance is expected from the best player in the world by far: 3.5 out of 4.
The performance of two other participants who deserve special monitoring is very diverse. The Iranian Alireza Firouzja (16 years old, 2nd board in the Rest of the World), has won Vidit today, has drawn with the American Hikaru Nakamura, number one in the world in lightning, and is the best of his team with 3.5 points eight games, in addition to turning each of their games into a fight without quarter. By contrast, Peruvian Jorge Cori, 24, leads one of four after conceding two losses today, against Harikrishna and So.
Results (complete here) .-
Round 5: US 2.5 – Russia 1.5; India 2.5 – Rest of the World 1.5; China 2.5 – Europe 1.5.
Round 6: Russia 1.5 – China 2.5; Europe 2 – India 2; Rest of the World 1 – USA 3.
Classification: 1st China 15 individual team points (21.5)); 2nd USA 11 (18); 3rd Europe 10 (17); 4-5 Russia and India 5 (14.5); 6th Rest of the World 2 (10.5).
You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook, Twitter or subscribe here to the Newsletter.