Gari Kaspárov, captain of the European team, has today one more reason to augur a great future for the 16-year-old Iranian Alireza Firouzja, who, with an impressive victory over the Armenian Levón Aronián, has prevented, after defeating the USA ( 2.5-1.5) in the 9th round, Europe beat Rest of the World (2-2) in the 10th. The Americans have beaten China, whose first place gives them an advantage in Sunday’s final of the FIDE Nations Cup, which is played on Chess.com.
The weak point of the American team was expected to be the women’s board, because its two players, Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih, are clearly inferior in theory to the Chinese, Yifán Hou and Wenjun Ju, and to the European players, Anna Muzychuk and Nana Dzagnidze. Winning Europe in the match between the two would have given the passport to the final to the US, who started with one more point today, but Krush lost to Dzagnidze while his compatriots Nakamura, Caruana and So signed draws with Vachier-Lagrave, Aronián and Giri, respectively.
That result turned the tables – Europe now had one more point than the North Americans – and forced the United States to beat the almighty China and at the same time hope that its rivals in the fight for second place would not beat Rest of the World (or tie and that Europe lost). And things started well for Fabiano Caruana’s team, who quickly massacred Hao Wang.
Just then, Krush skipped a shot that would have given him a great advantage over world champion Ju, who then had to settle for a draw. By then, Vachier-Lagrave had drawn with Azerbaijani Teimur Radyábov, and another draw had been signed in the women’s match Dzagnidze (Europe) -Saduakásova (Rest of the World), which produced a moment of maximum emotion, because the Polish Jan Duda beat Egypt’s Bassem Amin: Europe tied (2-2) with Rest of the World, forcing the US to beat China, and that seemed very difficult because Nakamura was lost to Ding.
The spotlights then turned to a young man who draws attention every day, but for reasons unrelated to the fight for the first two places. The impressive Iranian Alireza Firouzja, who had imposed himself in the 9th round with the black pieces in an unappealable way – and, as always, risking – one of the toughest of the elite, the Russian Sergei Kariakin, runner-up in the world in 2016. Not content with this, the 16-year-old Persian gave another review below, no less than the Armenian Levón Aronián (7th in the world in slow games and 8th in fast), to finish his performance on the second board in the rest of the World with 5.5 in ten games (three wins, two losses and five draws). And that left Europe sold, in the hands of third parties.
There came the decisive news, where it was least expected. The American Wesley So, undefeated but not very bright until that moment (4.5 of 7 on the third board) caused an error in the movement 37 of the impressive Yangyi Yu, the most effective player in the tournament, with 6.5 of 8. The United States thus knocked China down and took second place with the same team points as Europe (the first tiebreak system is the points in all games played) to face the Asians again in the final on Sunday.
In it, a draw (2-2) would give gold to China for having won the league in a double round. Much of the odds of the American team will depend again on what Irina Krush can face the world champion or – even more difficult – against the undisputed number one, Yifán Hou.
It has been a terrible day for Kaspárov, a movie character and one of the brightest champions in the history of all sports, for whom great challenges are the main justification for his life. Born in Azerbaijan, a Russian citizen with a Croatian passport, escaped to New York for fear of being assassinated for being a fierce opponent of Putin, he accepted the captaincy of Europe with the only objective valid for him in any type of competition: first place. But an Iranian young man whose results at the age of 16 are reminiscent of those of Kasparov himself has embittered him over the weekend.
Results (complete here) .-
Round 9: Rest of the World 2 – Russia 2; USA 1.5 – Europe 2.5; India 1.5 – China 2.5.
Round 10: Russia 2.5 – India 1.5; China 1.5 – USA 2.5; Europe 2 – Rest of the World 2.
Final classification of the double-round league: 1st China 17 individual team points (25.5)); 2nd USA 13 (22); 3rd Europe 13 (21.5); 4th Russia 8 (19); 5th India 5 (17.5); 6th Rest of the World 4 (14.5).
The final will be played this Sunday at 4:00 p.m. (Spanish peninsular time), 11:00 in Buenos Aires, 9:00 in Bogotá and Mexico City.
You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook, Twitter or subscribe here to the Newsletter.