Super Pro-Am Shaping Up To Be Epic
Inspired by the success of the The Players' Tribune and Chess.com Pro-Am Chess Tournament (see Mike Klein's excellent article), a new group of sponsors are close to finalizing the field for a "Super Pro-AM", featuring a star studded selection of chess professionals and celebrities. Here's the inside scoop on the expected lineup:
Mamedyarov / O'Neal
Top ten Super GM from Azerbaijan Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has been having a stellar 2017 on the chess board, so his presence alone is enough to stir up excitement. But with the addition of Shaquille O'Neal, Team Shaqattakh is sure to be crowd favorite.
FUN FACT: Shaq's playing style? He likes to occupy the center, and look for a tactical shot, but if he gets a worse position out of the opening, he can rebound and play defense very well.
MVL / Calaway
Maxime Vachier-LaGrave's pairing with professional wrestling superstar The Undertaker certainly makes them the most feared tag-team in the event. Both "The Grave Digger" (yes , we're still shamelessly trying to get this nickname for MVL to catch-on), and The Undertaker are capable of winning by sheer intimidation.
FUN FACT: The team chose their name, "The Black Death" as an homage to Joseph Henry Blackburne and his equally ominous chess moniker.
"I don't know which one scares me more" , said one GM involved in the event.
Carlsen / Bonzo
Undisputed World Champion and highest rated player ever, Magnus Carlsen has practically evolved to a higher level of chess intelligence. The organizers, therefore, have chosen to handicap Carlsen in this event by teaming him with a monkey. Magnus can take some consolation in the fact that "Bonzo can make legal moves most of the time" and he beat several students from Ben Finegold's intermediate class in a simul at the St. Louis Chess Club held earlier this year.
Magnus Carlsen (right) pictured with his proposed playing partner
Liren / Rhames
The Pro Am will also include some acting star-power with the inclusion of Ving Rhames to the field. Rhames has been paired with Ding Liren, the highest rated Chinese player ever. A source close to the players said that team "Ding and Ving" are taking this event very seriously and will be looking to "get medieval" on their fellow competitors.
FUN FACT: Liren and Rhames were actually the second choice for tournament promoters since the initial duo of GM Wang Yue and Tommy Chong (aka Team Wang-Chong) had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.
Spassky / Becker
The inclusion of two former world-champions, Boris Spassky and Boris Becker, is also being considered, but due to their long periods of inactivity it's unlikely they would be as competive as the other teams on the slate. One player commented that perhaps their best strategy would be to "bore us" to death by taking forever to make their moves, employing a mundane opening repetoire, and playing for static structures with uninteresting positions.
We will be sure to keep you updated on news of this event as it develops.