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Balance Over MVPs: Shanghai Tigers, Team MGD1 Defeat Heavyweights

Balance Over MVPs: Shanghai Tigers, Team MGD1 Defeat Heavyweights

NM_Vanessa
| 11 | Chess Event Coverage

On Thursday, the Shanghai Tigers again proved themselves to frontrunners, reaching 2-0 by taking down Blitz―the team with the highest-rated lineup―in week two of the Pro Chess League. Meanwhile, Team MGD1 bounced back to defeat the three-time champion, the Saint Louis Arch Bishops. 

The Tigers' top two boards, GM Wei Yi and GM Ju Wenjun, led their team to victory, both scoring three points despite Blitz's double super-GM lineup of GMs Alexander Grischuk and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and 2612 team average rating (before adjustments). Ju especially punched far above her rating, going undefeated and scoring a brilliant victory against Vachier-Lagrave in the last round. 

GM Fabiano Caruana's commanding 3.5 score for the Saint Louis Arch Bishops wasn't enough to overcome MGD1's balanced lineup led by GM Arjun Erigaisi with every player scoring at least 50 per cent.

The PCL will continue on Friday, February 24, 2023, at 7.30 a.m. PT/16:30 CET, when the Berlin Bears wrestle with the Croatia Bulldogs and the Gotham Knights joust vs. the California Unicorns.

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 Aman Hambleton


Shanghai Tigers 10.5 - 5.5 Blitz 

The Tigers must have been in high spirits coming off last week's victory against the Arch Bishops, as they fought confidently against the Blitz's fierce lineup. They seized the lead from round one with yet another victory by the team's top seed, Wei. 

Facing a King's Indian Attack against his Sicilian, the Chinese grandmaster shifted his pieces towards the kingside to conjure a vicious attack vs. GM Alexandre Bacrot, scoring the only win of the first round. Can you find the combination he played to break through?

In round two, second seed Ju also got the better of Bacrot in a knight and two pawns vs. rook middlegame by boldly marching her kingside passers (and kingside pawn cover) down the board, supported by tactical play.

Though Vachier-Lagrave defeated the Tiger's board four, GM Lou Yiping, Wei Yi's time scramble mating net vs. GM Kateryna Lagno neutralized the French grandmaster's point.

In round three, Vachier-Lagrave delivered Wei his first loss in the league with a knight sacrifice, ripping open the black kingside and chasing down the bold enemy king to its demise.

Wei Yi's fearless king meets its end.

Holding down the fort for the Tigers' side, Ju fought off Grischuk's persistent cat-and-mouse style pressure in a challenging minor-piece ending.

In round four, Lagno created a dangerous attack vs. GM Xu Yi and had the chance to finish him off with a mating combination. Can you find the missed opportunity?

The star of the final round was Ju, who upset Vachier-Lagrave with a dynamic combination of attacking and active defensive play, eliminating all attempts at counterplay from the 2021 world blitz champion. This superb game by the reigning women's world champion is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao.

With this second match victory in a row, the Shanghai Tigers are just one more win away from reaching the playoffs. 

Saint Louis Arch Bishops 6.5 - 9.5 Team MGD1

In round one, MGD1 gained a one-point edge with Erigaisi's miniature attacking victory vs. FM Rochelle Wu. As soon as the Indian grandmaster's fianchettoed dark-squared bishop was unleashed on the a1-h8 diagonal, it took deadly aim towards Wu's king, castled on the queenside.

In round two, Caruana defeated GM Harika Dronavalli in a double-edged duel.

However, the U.S. champion's victory was canceled by wins from both Erigaisi and GM Amin Tabatabaei, increasing Team MGD1's lead to two points.

In round three, Akobian gained a slight positional advantage on the queenside and gradually converted it into a winning pawn-up rook ending vs. IM Mittal Aditya. Caruana also won his game vs. Tabatabaei by thoughtfully maneuvering his knights to potent outposts and then creating a mating net virtually out of thin air. 

Despite these efforts, MGD1 held the balance with wins from Erigaisi and Dronavalli. The all-decisive, yet ultimately 2-2 tied round left the Arch Bishops in a more dire position, still trailing by two points heading into the final round. 

Caruana again came through for the team with a mating combination vs. fellow board-one Erigaisi.

However, Team MGD1 shut out any further chance at a comeback by striking back with victories on boards three and four, including an upset victory by Harika who converted her extra pawn with excellent endgame technique vs. Akobian.

Although the Arch Bishops had the player with the highest score with Caruana's 3.5 points, MGD1's solid and consistent team performance won the match.

With this victory, Team MGD1 jumps to the middle of the scoreboard at 1-1. On the other hand, to the shock of many, the three-time champion Arch Bishops are on 0-2 and will face a must-win match next week to avoid elimination. 


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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NM_Vanessa
NM Vanessa West

Vanessa West is a National Master, a chess teacher, and a writer for Chess.com. In 2017, they won the Chess Journalist of the Year award.

You can follow them on X: Vanessa__West

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