PRO Chess League Week 3: The Critical Showdowns

PRO Chess League Week 3: The Critical Showdowns

SamCopeland
NM SamCopeland
Jan 25, 2017, 12:00 AM |
5 | Fun & Trivia

With a staggering 480 players and more than 150 grandmasters currently playing, the PRO Chess League is expanding as word of mouth spreads and new free agents and local players sign up to do battle for their teams and help bring them glory.

Here are eight exciting matches and some debut player spotlights to keep an eye on this Wednesday in the PRO Chess League. Check out the full week three pairings here, and be sure to follow the games on Chess.com/TV.

Games start at 7:30 a.m. Pacific time. 

Eastern Division

The Leaders: Gorky Stormbringers (2-0) vs Riga Magicians (1.5-0.5)

The Magicians have been looking like one of the strongest teams in the league over the first two weeks and Gorky has started 2-0. While Gorky is 2-0, it's faced a much lower level of opposition than Riga. GM Evgeny Shaposhnikov and Anton Yatzenko have the most points for Gorky with 6.5/8 on the season. Meanwhile, GM Arturs Neiksans has an impressive 6/8 for a nearly 2700 performance rating.

The Chasers: Budapest Gambit (2-0) vs Norway Gnomes (1-1)

Norway recovered from its first-week loss to Riga, but now faces another tough 2-0 team in Budapest. While Budapest is 2-0, it also has not faced the toughest schedule, as both of its previous opponents are sitting at 0-2. GM Simen Agdestein is making his debut for Norway.

Agdestein jumps into the the board-one spot for GM Jon Ludwig Hammer (filling in for Magnus Carlsen, yet to debut), who looked great last week, but struggled a bit in week one.

For as long as chess is played, Agdestein is likely to be known as the answer to the trivia question: Which chess player also played for a national soccer team? Indeed Agdestein's dual prowess is incredible. He is also renowned for being the first grandmaster coach for world champion Magnus Carlsen.

These details do not credit his chess play properly. Agdestein is a seven-time champion of Norway. In 2014, he played the super-tournament Norway Chess. His brilliant play against the world's elite was highly celebrated.

Here he is in a barn-burner against the eventual tournament winner GM Sergey Karjakin where he barely missed a win as Black in a razor-sharp game.

For Budapest, IM Attila Vertetics, despite playing on board four, has been the top performer for Budapest with 6/8 on the season (2554 performance rating).

Central Division

Primary Matchup: Dublin Desperadoes (1-1) vs Cannes Blockbusters (2-0)

The big story of this match is the debut of former FIDE world champion GM Ruslan Ponomariov. This match will start with a bang as he takes on current French champion GM Matthieu Cornette. Also notable for Cannes is board four Flavio Perez, who scored an incredible upset victory over MVL in week two to give Cannes the match win. Flavio now has an incredible 7/8 for the season and a 2809 performance rating!

A bit more about Ponomariov: A former FIDE world champion, Ponomariov was signed as a free agent by the Dublin Desperadoes. He will make his debut for them this week on board one, playing all four rounds. As the remainder of the team is local, Ponomariov will be eligible to play every week on board one. He instantly makes the Desperadoes serious contenders with an average rating this week of 2479.

Ponomariov earned the grandmaster title at 14 years and 17 days old. At the time, he was the youngest grandmaster ever. More impressive is the FIDE world championship title claimed at the age of only 18 when in 2002 he defeated GM Vassily Ivanchuk in the finals of the FIDE knockout tournament. He has been ranked as high as number six in the world on multiple occasions and his peak rating is 2764.

Ponomariov also holds the distinction of being the last human player to beat a computer in classical chess.

Secondary Matchup: Marseille Migraines (1-1) vs Amsterdam Mosquitos (2-0)

This will be Marseille's first match without MVL. It still retain a strong team however as GM Etienne Bacrot, GM Yannick Gozzoli and GM Jules Moussard are on the top three boards. Meanwhile Amsterdam is off to a huge 2-0 start, led by the impressive play of top board GM Wouter Spoelman. Wouter has 6.5/8 on the season for a 2700+ performance rating.

Atlantic Division

Primary Matchup: Buenos Aires Krakens (1-1) vs Montreal Chessbrahs (2-0)

The Chessbrahs bring GM Li Chao to board one again. Li Chao is currently leading the PRO Chess League with a score of 7.5/8 and an amazing 2943 performance rating. They face off against a balanced and dangerous team from Buenos Aires that has three young GMs on the top three boards (GM Sandro Mareco, GM Federico Perez Ponsa and GM Alan Pichot).

Secondary Matchup: Philadelphia Inventors (2-0) vs New York Knights (0-2)

The Philadelphia Inventors have been looking incredible so far this season, in large part to the strong play of their board one Ukrainian free agent, Andriy Vovk.

Vovk has scored 7.5/8, which is equaled only by Li Chao. With GM Sergey Erenburg on board two and well-known internet blitz personalities IM Yaacov Norowitz and IM Tom Bartell, the Inventors are a balanced and dangerous team.

Meanwhile New York has had a really rough time of things so far this season, although it's faced two of the strongest teams in Miami and Montreal in the first two weeks. With a three grandmaster lineup of GM Leonid Yudasin, GM Oliver Barbosa and GM Mark Paragua, this should be a very tough match.

Pacific Division:

Primary Matchup: San Jose Hackers (2-0) vs Rio Grande Ospreys (1-1)

The San Jose Hackers look like one of the strongest teams in the league, as they have simply mowed their first two opponents down, despite facing formidable opposition. World number-13, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, has helped this cause with a strong 6.5/7 to start the season. Also this marks the debut of GM Rauf Mamedov, who will be subbing into the lineup for Mamedyarov after the first two weeks. At 2688 FIDE, Mamedov is a great backup option to have!

Keep in mind that due to the rule that allows only one free agent to play at the same time, these two players cannot be in the lineup simultaneously.

The Rio Grande team had a great week one but got shellacked by Dallas in week two. It hopes to rebound and as always uses a group of young and talented players from UT-RioGrande. With a balanced lineup of two grandmasters and two international masters, the Ospreys hope to take advantage of the lower-rated board fours of the Hackers in order to keep the match close.

Meanwhile they bring 2650 FIDE GM Anton Kovalyov on board one for his league debut. On paper, this should be a very competitive and close match.

Secondary Matchup: Seattle Sluggers (1-1) vs Dallas Destiny (1-1)

This is the debut match for GM Tigran Petrosian. Tigran is famous for winning the blitz tournament on Chess.com that allowed him to face world champion Magnus Carlsen in the first round of the Grandmaster Blitz Battle. With this rapid time control, Tigran should be an huge addition to the Slugger team.

Meanwhile Dallas brings another strong lineup of young stars as GM Julio Sadorra, GM-elect Ruifeng Li and GM Conrad Holt man the top three boards. This will be a competitive match-up that could go either way. The key may be whether 16-year-old Roland Feng can hold his own on board three as on paper he would seem to be outmatched by Dallas' board three (GM Conrad Holt).


Read up on everything you need to know about the PRO Chess League:

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