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PRO Chess League Semifinals: Saint Louis Arch Bishops And Russia Wizards Advance

PRO Chess League Semifinals: Saint Louis Arch Bishops And Russia Wizards Advance

YuriyKrykun
| 16 | Chess Event Coverage

Thursday, the 23rd of September, treated chess fans all around the world to the 2021 Pro Chess League's Arena Royale's semifinals. Many of you have been following previous stages of the event, but it wouldn't hurt to remind you that the four teams who qualified for the semifinals are the Saint Louis Arch Bishops, the India Yogis, the Russia Wizards, and the California Unicorns.

As a brief reminder, it is worth saying that the format of today's competition meant each player would face each player of the opponent's team, so we had four rounds in each semifinal match. A lot of chess for the fans!

With so many top players participating, such as GMs Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Evgeny Tomashevsky, and many others, as well as a number of young prodigies like GM Andrey Esipenko (who is already a super-GM and one of the world's top players), GM Alexey Sarana, GM Raunak Sadhwani, IM Christopher Yoo, etc, today's playoffs have been very thrilling to watch.

Let's take a closer look at the action! 

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 Arena Royale champion. Games and commentary will be broadcast on Chess.com/tv.
PRO Chess League Arena Royale

Live coverage of the finals. Watch all of the live coverage at chess.com/tv


Saint Louis Arch Bishops Annihilate India Yogis

In the first match, the Saint Louis Arch Bishops faced the India Yogis. 

While it's fair to say the St.Louis team was undoubtedly a large favorite rating-wise, the Indian team also boasts a powerful roster: GMs Vidit Gujrathi, Karthikeyan Murali, A.Chithambaram, and Raunak Sadhwani. It is worth pointing out that the entire team is very young, as the oldest player is 27-year-old Gujrathi while the youngest player, Sadhwani, is only 15!

In the first round, Caruana outplayed Sadhwani for his first of three wins of the day, while GM Leinier Dominguez scooped up another win for Saint Louis against Murali. The other two boards drew their games: in particular, So shared the point with Chithambaram, while GM Jeffery Xiong and Gujrathi also had their game reach a peaceful outcome. The first round ended up 3-1 for the Arch Bishops!

2021 PCL
GM Fabiano Caruana led the Arch Bishops with a 3.5/4 score. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In the next round, Saint Louis went on to win again, as Caruana outplayed Chithambaram, and So beat Sadhwani. The Indian team managed to strike back on one board, as Karthikeyan scored a full point versus Xiong, but the final score of 2.5-1.5 still wasn't much of a source of happiness for the Yogis.

In the third round of the match, the Arch Bishops once again won 2.5-1.5: this time, Caruana got a full point in his game versus Karthikeyan, and Xiong outplayed Chithambaram. Again, the Yogis got one win: this time, Gujrathi beat So, who loses so rarely! Let's take a look at this game: 

While the outcome of this semifinal match had been decided, players still had one more round to play. 

The final round of the match did not bring the Yogis any relief either: another 3-1 victory for the Saint Louis Arch Bishops. This time, So beat Karthikeyan, while Dominguez proved stronger than Chithambaram. The other two games ended in a draw.

Of course, this was a tremendous display of strength from Saint Louis who won every single round of the semifinal match. Fans of the Arch Bishops should thank Caruana, who led his team to success by scoring a whopping 3.5/4, while GM Dominguez also greatly contributed with an impressive 3/4. 

On the other hand, the Yogi fans can be impressed with the result of Vidit Gujrathi, who scored a very respectable 2.5/4 without losing a single game.

All in all, a great fight with Saint Louis advaning to the Finals!

Russia Wizards Soundly Defeat The California Unicorns

In the second match of the Semifinals, the Russia Wizards collided with the California Unicorns.

In the first round, the matchups looked like this: Nepomniachtchi versus one of America's biggest prodigies IM Christopher Yoo; Esipenko played GM Oleksandr Bortnyk; Tomashevsky faced GM Daniel Naroditsky, and finally, Sarana played against GM Georg Meier. 

The results of the first round were somewhat unusual: while the score of 2-2 is perfectly normal, all games ended in a draw, which does not happen very often in online rapid matches.

The next round, however, was not as peaceful: while the games between GMs Nepomnichtchi and Bortnyk, as well as GMs Tomashevsky and Meier, ended peacefully, the other two had decisive outcomes: Esipenko outplayed Yoo, while Sarana proved stronger in his encounter versus Naroditsky. As a result, the Russia Wizards won the round with a 3-1 score.

In round three of the match, Naroditsky delivered quite an upset by beating the world champion challenger Nepomniachtchi, giving the California team a rather strong boost. Let's take a look at this game below:

However, Russia Wizards again kept control over the match, having responded with two victories: Tomashevsky beat Yoo and Sarana won his game against Bortnyk. Another 2.5-1.5 for the Russian team.

By the final round, the Russia Wizards had already secured the match victory, however, they also went on to finish off nicely: three games were drawn, but Tomashevsky scored a full point versus Bortnyk, which resulted in another 2.5-1.5 round victory and a finals appearance.

2021 PCL
GM Evgeny Tomashevsky scored 3/4 for the Russia Wizards, who advanced to the finals. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

On a funny note, it is worth pointing out that in the recently finished 2021 FIDE Online Olympiad, the final match saw Russia face the USA. Apparently, this couldn't be a one-time event, as on Friday, the 24th of September, the 2021 Pro Chess League's finals will also see an American team play a Russian team! Isn't that an interesting trend?

We will see even more exciting chess in the finals, and hopefully, you will enjoy the coverage!


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