Final 3 Playoff Spots Up For Grabs In PRO Chess Last Round
It's the end of the regular season of the PRO Chess League.

Final 3 Playoff Spots Up For Grabs In PRO Chess Last Round

MikeKlein
FM MikeKlein
Mar 6, 2018, 3:05 PM |
14 | Other

We already have 13 for the 13th.

Thirteen of the Professional Rapid Online (PRO) Chess League's teams already know they'll be playing more chess during the opening week of the playoffs on March 13. That leaves only three openings left heading into tomorrow's final week of the regular season. Six teams are fighting for them.

Be sure to tune in Wednesday, March 7 starting at 8 a.m. Pacific (11 a.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Central Europe), on Twitch.tv/prochessleague.

Below you'll find the breakdown of what needs to happen for each team to qualify for the playoffs, as well as a discussion of how they can each avoid relegation into next year's "Q-school," whereby they'll have to earn their way back into the league for 2019. 

Last, we will cover what it takes for top teams to finish first in their division. That's important since they would then earn "draw odds" in the first two rounds of the playoffs and would advance in case of an 8-8 tie.

We start with the two divisions that are the most unclear. Here's the full pairings and lineups for the final week of the regular season.

Pacific Division

It's a wild situation in the Pacific, which kicks off last (6 p.m. Pacific), so set up the coffeemaker now. Only out West will you find two of the four playoff checks unsigned. In fact, every team, save the last place squad, has something to play for—either first place, a playoff spot, or avoidance of relegation!

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The Chengdu Pandas and San Diego Surfers will both advance to the postseason. They both sit at 6.5-1.5 and whoever scores a better match result this week will lock up first. If they both win or draw, Chengdu has a healthy tiebreak advantage of seven games (its 97 game wins is easily tops in the entire league).

After that, three more teams are vying for a couple of spots. Unfortunately, none is playing each other this week, but that will mean some interesting scoreboard watching.

The Dallas Destiny have the inside track. At 5.5-2.5, it needs a tie or better or ensure advancement. The Destiny actually have the worst tiebreaks, so it won't want to rely on this for advancement in case of a loss. The team's destiny is actually so unknown, that it could technically finish first place in Pacific with a rout, or finish out of the playoffs completely if it loses!

The Australia Kangaroos are hopping along a half-match-point back (5-3) but also they have mediocre tiebreaks. They could very easily draw their match and get passed on tiebreaks. However, they are "win and in" since they begin match nine with a half-point lead over the San Jose Hackers (4.5-3.5).

The Hackers are trying to make a run to the semifinals, where it is now known that they'd nearly be playing on home turf (the final four teams will play in person in San Francisco, as Chess.com announced recently). But before they make the drive up the 101, they'll need some help. Even a win may not be good enough, but a draw would be, if Australia loses by any margin.

As for relegation, the Las Vegas Desert Rats (1-7) have already been hit by the plague. There's no path out of the cellar for them, so they'll need to qualify again next year. Rio Grande Ospreys can only avoid relegation if they win (by any margin) and the GM Hikaru Nakamura-led Seattle Sluggers lose.

Eastern Division

Three teams all lead with 5.5-2.5 (Armenia Eagles, Delhi Dynamite, and Mumbai Movers). They will all fight it out for first place—the Eagles and Dynamite are actually in a dead-heat tie in game points as well.

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The Estonia Horses trail one match-point behind (4.5-3.5) but they will not be able to finish in first since two of the above teams (Armenia and Mumbai) are playing each other, so at least one will finish ahead of Estonia. Not only will the ponies not be thinking about first, they can't even think of the playoffs yet. Standing in their way is none other than GM Magnus Carlsen, who is in the lineup once again for the Norway Gnomes.

The Norwegians, last year's finalists, have a simple formula to that last playoff spot: win and in. Anything else, and go home.

Estonia is the only Baltic team that could be playing chess next week. Although the Riga Magicians are tied with Norway at 3.5-4.5, there is no path for them to the postseason. That's because they would need to win and have Norway beat Estonia for all the end up on 4.5-4.5. But Norway's minimum game points would then be 92.5 (84+8.5 from the final week) and that's 17 more than Riga has currently. Since matches only offer 16 game points, the magic is over for Latvia.

Riga does have much to play for. The Magicians begin only a half-point ahead of Volga Stormbringers (3-5) in the relegation zone. The Oslo Trolls (1-7) won their opening match but have since suffered seven straight losses and have officially been relegated.

Central Division

All four playoff teams are known: Stockholm Snowballs (5.5-2.5), Marseille Migraines (5.5-2.5), Cannes Blockbusters (5-3), Ljubljana Turtles (4-4). The first three in that list could all still finish first (Stockholm vs. Cannes is the matchup that will decide playoff seeding the most).

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Whereas the country of Norway could end up with both teams missing the playoffs, and England definitely will, both French équipes will be advancing to the séries éliminatoires.

The really interesting battle will be the one at the division's bottom end. The Reykjavik Puffins and London Lions are both on 2.5-5.5, and the Icelanders face one of the teams chasing them, the Amsterdam Mosquitos (2-6). It matters not who finishes tops in this trio; it only matter who finishes last.

If the Lions win or draw, they are through to next season. But things aren't so simple for the more diminutive animals.

The loser of the Puffins-Mosquitos match will very likely be the relegated team. However, a Reykjavik loss and a Lions loss could still give a backdoor method for the Puffins clinching a spot next season. In case of a tie, Amsterdam would need a loss from the Lions. 

Like in the other divisions, one team is assured of relegation. In the Central that is the London Towers (1-7).

Atlantic Division

The top four teams have the exact records as in the Pacific: two tied at 6.5-1.5 (Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers and Webster Windmills), one on 5.5-3.5 (Minnesota Blizzard) and the fourth place team on 5-3 (St. Louis Arch Bishops). Unlike in that sister division, there's not as much drama left—all four are through to the playoffs and none of them play each other.

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The Pawngrabbers and Windmills are exactly tied in game points too, so they'll be looking to win big. In case both lose, the Blizzard could even overtake them for first. The Arch Bishops can finish no higher than third, but will surely get a chance to defend their championship from 2017.

Only in this division has none of the relegation spots been "clinched," although the Buenos Aires Krakens (1.5-6.5) would need to win by a monumental score to even have a chance of climbing from eighth to sixth. Curiously, Montclair Sopranos (3-5) aren't even guaranteed a 2019 berth if they draw, although a win means they are through. The Montreal Chessbrahs (2.5-5.5) have a slight tiebreak lead over Miami Champions (2.5-5.5) for the last non-relegation spot. 

Be sure to tune in Wednesday, March 7 starting at 8 a.m. Pacific (11 a.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Central Europe), on Twitch.tv/prochessleague.

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Today's schedule in Pacific time. For all the information on the PRO Chess League, visit the official website prochessleague.com.

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