PRO Chess Round 8: Playoff Push Today
Hou Yifan will make her debut for the Montreal Chessbrahs this week.

PRO Chess Round 8: Playoff Push Today

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Playoff scenarios are beginning to take shape in the PRO Chess League's second season. With the announcement that the final four teams will play in person in San Francisco, we can call these last two weeks of the regular season the road to the "chowder challenge."

Only two of the 16 playoff slots have been secured, both from teams in the Atlantic Division. Many more will get in this week with the right result, and we will break down each division below.

Be sure to tune in Wednesday, February 28 starting at 8 a.m. Pacific (11 a.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Central Europe), on and

It's time for the big hitters to enter the lineups. All four time slots will feature a world top-10 player. The world's highest-rate woman also makes her debut this season.

Eastern Division

The Mumbai Movers lead the division with 5.0/7 match points. But with five teams within two wins, they can't rest yet. With Baskaran Adhiban and Surya Ganguly on top boards this week, they face the Riga Magicians (3.0/7), who will likely need to go two-for-two and have some math wizardry to pass all the teams in front of them. Mumbai clinches the playoffs with a win, but is not completely secured with merely a tie. 

Armenia, Delhi, and Estonia all occupy the other three top spots, all on 4.5/7. The Delhi Dynamite may have the toughest challenge this week, as they go up against the Norway Gnomes, who at the moment are on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

Pro Chess League standings Eastern division

Two of the Gnomes standing tall in the lineup will be GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Nils Grandelius, who both went 7.5/8 in last week's Super Saturday.

PRO Chess League Magnus Carlsen Norway Gnomes

The Armenia Eagles and Estonia Horses actually face each other, with the winner having excellent playoff chances (they could even clinch if both Norway and Riga lose). Both teams field remarkably similar lineups—three GMs and a CM. If you add the rating differences for all four boards together, it's only around 75 points.

Central Division

No team has completely clinched here either, but it seems likely a few might this week. In fact, with the right results, all four teams could be decided going into a lame-duck week.

Atop the division are the Stockholm Snowballs and Marseille Migraines, both on 4.5/7. These two squads both have a two-match buffer on the fifth-place Reykjavik Puffins, so a draw or win, or an Icelandic draw or loss, and the two leaders are in the playoffs.

PRO Chess league standings Central division

Marseille is not taking any chances. After a dismal 5.0/32 performance last week with a weakened lineup (worst among any of the 32 teams), the Migraines have pulled GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave away from binge-watching Paris St. Germain highlights on Eurosport. The 80 percent he's scored this far this year (TPR: 2779) will be needed, especially in the final round against the biggest Mosquito, GM Loek van Wely.

The Mosquitos are dormie. They need nothing short of two wins, and a whole lot of help. Their tiebreakers aren't bad—curiously their 73 game wins are second-best in the division, but they'll need either Ljubljana or Cannes to lose both remaining matches, and also for the Puffins not to win both. Still, if it all happens, one questions remains: Will van Wely even be able to enter the U.S. for the potential semifinals?

PRO Chess League Loek van Wely

Atlantic Division

The only two squads that have already earned a post-season berth both come from the Atlantic (although neither is from a state that touches the Atlantic Ocean—it must just be a clever name). The Webster Windmills (6.5/7) have taken over as the team with the best record in the league. They are followed closely by second-place Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers (5.5/7), who are picking up the slack in a town which saw another one of its proud teams dismantled this winter.

PRO Chess league standings Atlantic division

Those two division leaders will face off against each other, and with the tiebreaker within one point, Pittsburgh could even overtake Webster if they won by larger than the minimum margin. Finishing first place does matter—up until the semifinals and finals, teams with better records enjoy "draw odds" in case of an 8-8 tie in the playoffs.

With those two teams safe, third and fourth place Minnesota (4.5/7) and St. Louis (4/0/7) will both try to keep their respective final two playoff spots. The good news for the Arch Bishops is that their game points are significantly higher than the two teams chasing them, so even after loss this week they will still control their own destiny.

The other good news for the Arch Bishops is that GM Fabiano Caruana is playing. He currently leads everyone in the league in both game points (a tie with GM Yu Yangyi) and TPR.

2018 PRO Chess League leaders

GM Hou Yifan, who turned 24 yesterday, is making her Montreal ChessBrah debut. But the most loquacious team in the league may have waited a little too long to play its secret weapon. At 2.5/7, the ChessBrahs are in need of two wins and some major help. They are actually tied for one of the division's two relegation spots, only edging out Miami by two game points, so it's a critical week for both.

Pacific Division

In the most tightly-clustered division, three teams are all tied at the top of the tables. Throw in the fourth-place team, and all will play each other this week.

Chengdu-Dallas and San Diego-Australia will be a battle of the league's top four teams. San Jose will be hoping they all beat each other up so they can leapfrog someone into playoff consideration.

PRO Chess league Pacific division

GM Hikaru Nakamura will lead his Sluggers, but they are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Still, they need him to try to prevent relegation in the match against the San Jose Hackers, topped by GM Daniel Naroditsky.

Watch all the action on and from Wednesday, February 28, 8 a.m. Pacific (11 a.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Central Europe) onwards!


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

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