What the Week 6 East+Central Lineups Mean

What the Week 6 East+Central Lineups Mean

CaliforniaUnicorns
CaliforniaUnicorns
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by David Pruess, manager

Just looking at the lineups for the Eastern and Central divisions this week got me pretty excited, so I wanted to share the perspective of an avid PCL fan (and manager) seeing them.

Eastern Division

Bulldogs-Eagles

Parham makes his debut! The Eagles are making sure that he is eligible for the playoffs. As expected, the Eagles are continuing to play 3 locals. I might have sat one of the locals to give another match to Sadhwani or Chigaev-- because I'm not sure which of these three Free Agents I would use in the playoffs if I were the Eagles' manager. Then I might do the same thing in week 7 against India. Although they may need to beat India to get the first seed in the playoffs, so maybe they should go with the three locals that round. All the more reason to have given an extra match now to Sadhwani or Chigaev. The most obvious explanation for this is that Manukyan just knows what he wants to do with the team, and part of it is letting his 3 all-stars log-- and win-- as many games as possible to keep them as locked-in as possible from start to end of the season.

Knights - Pandas

The Knights finally brought back Yilmaz and Can (from their thrilling week 1 win over Israel). This means they see China as vulnerable and still want to steal a playoff spot. Well spotted! And we've been waiting to see more of those two. Unfortunately there's bad news for the Knights and the Pandas-- Yu Yangyi. At this point, I'm seeing this as meaning there will be no Ding Liren. Yu will be enough to beat back the Knights, and allow the Pandas to straggle into the playoffs. But this week's lineup, despite sporting a massive average FIDE rating, does not project the kind of strength the Pandas had in past seasons. They have found their top lineup for this season, and Wei Yi has found tremendous form, but they don't seem like a favorite to make it back to the Final Four.

Counsellors-Hunters

The Hunters bring in 3 new players, which says they are still looking for their identity as the season winds down. Trying out some new players for next season. Meanwhile the only Counsellor making his debut is their top-rated free agent, Eljanov, suggesting they are trying to make the very most of this season. It is still possible for them to make the playoffs (for example Russia losing by a few points to the Yogis, and then the Counsellors beating the Wizards themselves in the final week), and it's exciting to see Eljanov join their best performers, Rodshtein and Fridman, in an attempt to make that happen. It should make for an exciting final match against the Wizards next week.

Yogis - Wizards

The most exciting match and the most exciting lineups for this week!!! Nepo! Mamedyarov! Andreikin! Of course what I really want to see is Dobrov, but Nepo is a close second, Vitiugov a close third, and Andreikin a close fourth. Clearly the Wizards also believe in Ponkratov, and I am happy to see them finally bring out a lineup that says, WE REALLY WANT TO WIN. Yeah, that's what chess competition is supposed to be about!!

Problem is, they waited a long time for this. They better hope Andreikin is ready, and a quick study. Because if he needs to go through a learning curve to be a PCL star, it could cost Russia a couple spots in the standings. Last season he was unimpressive (2614 perf), so I am waiting to be impressed. Unfortunately, Vitiugov is at the Prague super-GM, so he's probably out of the mix for them for this season.

On the other hand, the Yogis seem confused. Indianlad is in, which says they have a clue. But many of the other players I want to see are missing from what is a very important match with Russia. If they lose this match, the Eagles will clinch first, and next week will hardly be a showdown. There are a bunch of players I wanted to see who are not playing: Hari (Prague as well), Vidit (Prague), Adhiban, and Nihal Sarin. It's good to see Gupta in the lineup again, but I'm really disappointed to miss out on the Beast and Nihal.

Mamedyarov's individual performance will [appear to] say a lot about whether the manager is a genius or a fool. If he leads them to victory, then it will show that a player of that class is just what India needed to push them over the top against teams like Russia and Armenia. If he has a so-so result, we will be left wondering why a team absolutely overflowing with talent didn't give more experience to its own players and trust in their power and growth. For now, I think it's a big mistake. With no idea what to expect from Karthikeyan and some doubts about Andreikin, it's hard to call this match. It seems like a tossup.

Central Division

Maxime's back! Will be a bit fun to watch him, but the total stomping of the Raptors will not be to my taste.

Gnomes-Mosquitoes

Happy to see Van Wely back. I'm also a fan of Vrolijk. Hopefully they can make a fun and close match of it. Norway has found its stride and has more to play for, as well as an invigorating winning streak going, so I would expect them to take it.

Wasabis-Hussars

Sad to see Grandelius missing (Prague as well), but it's no fault of management, who has continued to give it everything they have. I started the season really excited for Poland, but now I'm rooting for the Wasabis (by which I mean the players, the manager, and the fans too!). Could be a very close match, but Bassem Amin should give them a 1-1.5 point advantage, making them the favorites, especially with a couple Hussars making their debut. This match has the greatest playoff implications in the 4-way race between these two teams, the Gnomes, and the Gladiators. A win probably gets the Wasabis into the playoffs, while a Hussars win leaves week 7 very complicated.

Bears v Gladiators

Like the Wasabis, the Gladiators continue to give it everything they've got, running their best 4 week after week. But the Bears are planning to eat everyone, burp loudly, get some beer, and burp some more. Without Brunello, Vocaturo, or some amazing free agent, the Gladiators just don't have the firepower to compete with KOROBOV. TOMCZAK. BRAUN. KOLLARS. I would expect even the Bears fourth board to score 2 or more points in a blowout that pushes the Gladiators into a must-win last week match against the Roosters.

Did I mention we get to watch KORBOV, TOMCZAK, BRAUN, and KOLLARS? This is a blowout that I don't mind watching.

Out of all these matches, the best one to watch has to be Russia-India, and the most important players to watch Mamedyarov, Gupta, and Andreikin. That will tell us a lot about the balance of power in the East.