PRO Chess League Quarterfinals: Saint Louis Arch Bishops Dominate

PRO Chess League Quarterfinals: Saint Louis Arch Bishops Dominate

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On Tuesday, chess fans around the world followed the quarterfinals of the Pro Chess League's Arena Royale.

Before we take a look at how the event unfolded, you need to be aware of a change: as you might have read, there were supposed to be three arena tournaments and a ladder knockout match, which would have determined the last semifinalist. However, the format has changed a bit—now, a large arena tournament has a total of eight teams and 48 players, from which the top three teams have qualified directly, while the fourth and fifth top-finishers had to play a knockout for the last spot.

The teams were Saint Louis Archbishops, Russia Wizards, California Unicorns, India Yogis, Canada Chessbrahs, Brazil Capybaras, Norway Gnomes, and France Roosters.

Let's dive in and see how that went!

How to watch?
The PRO Chess League Arena Royale takes place Sept. 16-24 and features over $100,000 in prizes. Teams compete in a series of club arenas and matches to advance and ultimately win the title of 2021 PRO Chess League's Arena Royale champion. Games and commentary will be broadcast on
PRO Chess League Arena Royale

The Arena 

Fans have been looking forward to both individual results and team outcomes.

As for individual results, GM Hikaru Nakamura, the usual favorite of most online blitz and bullet events who was representing the team of Brazil Capybaras, dominated the field and scored 70 points. In second place GM Wesley So, playing for his usual team of Saint Louis, scored 66 points. GM Ian Nepomniachtchi finished in third with 64 points.

However, because in this event the total of individual results of the team members matters, it is crucial to point out that players of Saint Louis Archbishops grabbed fourth and fifth places:  IM, Nikolas Theodorou (who just got his last GM norm) with 60 points and GM Jeffery Xiong with 58 points gave the team a huge boost.

The event produced many interesting games, but you might enjoy a quiet positional encounter. Let's learn from this one!

As a result, the event was dominated by Saint Louis Archbishops with a total team score of 294 points. The team was represented by So, Theodorou, Xiong, GM Hans Niemann and GM Fabiano Caruana. Caruana, one of the best players in the world, scored just 29 points, which landed him on the 28th individual place out of 47; however, the rest of the team performed spectacularly.

The Russia Wizards placed second with 246 team points, quite a bit less than Saint Louis. Specifically, a huge part of its success was achieved by Nepomniachtchi, placing third with 64 points. However, GM Evgeniy Tomashevskiy also scored very well (49 points and individual sixth place), while other teammates, namely GM Maxim Chigaev, GM Alexey Sarana, and GM Vladimir Fedoseev also contributed considerably with 44, 34, and 30 points respectively.

Finally, in third place, the team California Unicorns owes its success to GM Daniel Naroditsky, who got 46 points and ninth individual place, GM Baadur Jobava (42 points), GM Georg Meier (40 points), IM Christopher Yoo (38 points), and IM Tuan Minh Le (34 points). Altogether, the players boasted a team score of 227 points.

Congratulations to all winners! 

The Ladder 

The format of the event allows the top three teams to qualify automatically, while the fourth- and fifth-place teams have to play a ladder match for the final spot. That was quite a bummer for the India Yogis, who earned 224 points—just three points shy of third place. However, the Canada Chessbrahs, who scored 192 points, might not have much to complain about, as they got a shot at qualifying for the quarterfinals.

The ladder match means a member of team A faces a player of team B and by winning, next faces another member of team B and continues until all members of one team are knocked out.

The team India Yogis was represented by GMs Nihal Sarin, R Praggnanandhaa, Raunak Sadhwani, and Vidit Gujrathi. They played the team Canada Chessbrahs with GMs Anish Giri, Velimir Ivic, Eric Hansen, and Jorden van Foreest.

GM Nihal Sarin PCL arena royale
GM Nihal Sarin picked up two crucial wins for the Yogis. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The match began with Vidit facing and defeating van Foreest. Then Vidit faced Hansen and beat him as well. In the next encounter, Vidit played Giri, who successfully managed to avoid the elimination of another member of the Canadian team and outplayed Vidit. 

Giri went on to crush Sadhwani and Praggnanandhaa as well, when the Indian team seemed to be a large underdog, as they had just one player left, namely Sarin. What tension!

However, Sarin managed to completely turn the tables by beating both Giri (enjoy analyzing this dramatic encounter) and the final player of the Canadian team, Ivic! 

As a result, the India Yogis have won the knockout to successfully grab the remaining fourth spot of the semifinals and make all of their fans extremely happy. It was a truly fascinating event to follow!


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