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Nakamura Scores 4/4 For Gotham Knights, Croatia Bulldogs Outclass Berlin Bears

Nakamura Scores 4/4 For Gotham Knights, Croatia Bulldogs Outclass Berlin Bears

JackRodgers
| 17 | Chess Event Coverage

As the Pro Chess League's second week reached its conclusion on Friday, the Croatia Bulldogs and the Gotham Knights secured narrow match wins over the Berlin Bears and the California Unicorns respectively.

Following a hard-fought loss in week one, the Bulldogs were able to bounce back and battle their way to a 9-7 victory over the Bears thanks to a superb 3.5/4 performance from board three IM Bardiya Daneshvar

The Knights were able to roll with the momentum and win their second match in a row, this time over the Unicorns by a margin of 8.5-7.5. The IM Levy Rozman-captained Knights shot out to a 7.5-4.5 lead heading into the fourth round but relaxed early and lost the final round 3-1.

Fortunately, GM Hikaru Nakamura was firing on all cylinders and scored a perfect 4/4 that included a huge win over GM Sam Shankland in the final round, pushing the Knights over the line and to the top of the PCL leaderboard.

The PCL will continue on Tuesday, February 28, 2023, at 7.30 a.m. PT/16:30 CET, when the Brazil Capybaras will take on the Norway Gnomes, and the Charlotte Cobras and Spanish Maniac Shrimps will vie to keep their league dreams alive.

How to watch?
You can watch the 2023 Pro Chess League on Chess.com/TV. You can also enjoy the show on our Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on YouTube.com/ChesscomLive. The games can also be followed from our Events Page.

Live broadcast of the match, hosted by GMs Robert Hess and FM James Canty III.


Berlin Bears 7 - 9 Croatia Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have so far shown a lot of grit in the PCL and have presented themselves as a team that will work their way into any match. As the slim rating favorites in week two, the Bulldogs looked to strike early and won the first round 2.5-1.5. GMs Bogdan-Daniel Deac and Mustafa Yilmaz were able to overcome the board three and four players from the Bears and nullify GM Matthias Bluebaum's win over IM Eline Roebers in a board-one mismatch.

Round two was the most significant round of the day for the Bulldogs as they trumped the Bears by a 3-1 margin after Daneshvar with the black pieces on board one upset Bluebaum. Playing the English Defense against his German opponent's Queen's Pawn opening, Daneshvar put on a positional exhibition and squeezed the 2022 European chess champion. 

Yilmaz also continued in his winning ways, defeating WGM Josefine Heinemann in the English Opening: Symmetrical Variation, while Deac struck against the swift-moving GM Michael Bezold's King's Indian Defense.

Needing to act fast to turn the match around, the Bears ambushed the Bulldogs in round three and flipped the momentum with a 2.5-1.5 score. While the round win still left them with a lot of work to do (a 5-7 score meant that at least three points would need to be scored in the fourth round to tie the match), the Bears' players showed signs that they wouldn't go down without a fight.

The fourth-round board matchups left the Bears in a dire position, being outrated on every board and perhaps missing their marquee signing, GM Anton Korobov, who is yet to appear for the struggling team this season.

Will Korobov make an appearance in next week's season-defining fixture? Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Despite valiant efforts and classy wins from GM Dmitrij Kollars and Heinemann over Yilmaz and Roebers respectively, the match points were split 2-2 in the final round and the Bulldogs secured their first victory of the season. Deac's win over Bluebaum on board one was the nail in the coffin for the Bears and was made all the more impressive when the Bulldogs' board one spent 30 seconds of his time fixing his camera which tumbled to the ground mid-game.

Joining seven other teams on 1/2 match wins, the Bulldogs will be on the hunt for a week-three win that could catapult them up the table. Meanwhile, the Bears will require a week-three win over one of three opponents—Charlotte Cobras, Spanish Maniac Shrimps, or Saint Louis Arch Bishops—to keep their season alive.

Gotham 8.5 - 7.5 California Unicorns

Rozman's Gotham Knights have had a stellar start to their inaugural PCL season and with a win against one of the league's strongest lineups (the California Unicorns) in the books, they join an illustrious group of four teams at the top of the table.

The Knights eased into the first round with a 2-2 draw, with rating-expected results transpiring across all four boards. Shankland started the day in style after spotting a neat remove-the-defender tactic which left WIM Alua Nurmanova with no choice but to resign.

Fedoseev started the day with a trademark tactic shot, scorching GM Christopher Yoo with a pawn sacrifice on the 34th move.

Member of the gold medal-winning Uzbekistan Olympiad team, GM Shamsiddin Vokhidov proved himself as a great recruitment for the Knights and on the black side of the Queen's Gambit Declined: Ragozin Defense upset Shankland in round two.

The result, combined with wins by Nakamura over Yoo and Fedoseev over WIM Zoey Tang, allowed the Knights to surge to a 5-3 score heading into the third round. 

One of the world's best, Fedoseev is a monster of online chess. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Nakamura's recent purple patch has included three straight Titled Tuesday victories and on Friday he showed no signs of slowing down. Although he accumulated a perfect score against the Unicorns, GM Ray Robson gave him a run for his money in round three, but as the titan of blitz chess so often does, Nakamura swindled his opponent.

Another win for Vokhidov and a tame draw between Shankland and Fedoseev left the Knights on 7.5 and a single point away from a second-match win.

A sign of a great team is their ability to claw back from a huge deficit, and the tenacity shown by the Unicorns has undoubtedly won them many new fans. With their backs against the walls, the Unicorns did manage to secure wins on boards two, three, and four in the fourth round; however, on board one, Nakamura had already won the match for the Knights.

Unfortunately for the Unicorns, Nakamura is quite possibly one of the most experienced chess players in the world when it comes to dealing with this kind of pressure, and on the white side of the Sicilian Defense: Delayed Alapin Variation, Nakamura played the Game of the Day, prompting Shankland to resign on move 42. GM Rafael Leitao annotates the spectacular game below.

With the two biggest chess content creators on the planet representing one PCL team, it is inevitable that insights will be shared via YouTube videos. Nakamura uploaded his thoughts on the day's proceedings and mentioned that he will be uploading another recap after their all-important week-three match.

Standings After Week Two



The Pro Chess League (PCL) is the number-one online global chess league for teams from all over the world. The event features 16 teams playing rapid games for their piece of the $150,000 prize fund.

The main event will continue throughout February and March and features top players like GMs Magnus Carlsen, Daniel Naroditsky, and Hikaru Nakamura.


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