Levitov Chess Wizards Win Again, Garden State Passers Fry Spanish Maniac Shrimps

Levitov Chess Wizards Win Again, Garden State Passers Fry Spanish Maniac Shrimps

| 7 | Chess Event Coverage

The Levitov Chess Wizards and the Garden State Passers recorded comfortable victories in the second week of the Pro Chess League on Wednesday after gaining momentum from their respective board-fours who defeated their opponents' board ones.

Joining the Indian Yogis atop the PCL leaderboard, the Wizards reaffirmed themselves as a dominant force in the league after defeating the Norway Gnomes with a 10.5-5.5 score. GM Alexey Sarana was the standout for the Wizards, and a 3.5/4-point contribution squashed the Gnomes' hopes of back-to-back match wins.

After a devastating loss against the Wizards in week one, the Garden State Passers looked like a new team and managed to knock over the Spanish Maniac Shrimps with a reverberant 11-5 score. GM Sam Sevian carried on rampaging through his games and posted a 4/4 personal score.

The PCL will continue on Thursday, February 23, 2023, at 7.30 a.m. PT/16:30 CET, when the Shanghai Tigers take on team Blitz and the Saint Louis Arch Bishops play against MGD1.

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Live broadcast of the match, hosted by GMs Robert Hess and Daniel Naroditsky.

Norway Gnomes 5.5 - Levitov Chess Wizards 10.5

The Wizards continued their undefeated run in the PCL with another comfortable win on Wednesday, and consistent team performance across all four boards was the catalyst for a convincing win. A 3.5/4 score from Sarana, coupled with a critical 2/4 by board-four GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, highlighted the depth of this front-running team.

Round one was a bloodbath that ended in a 3.5/4 victory for the Wizards, and they never gave the Gnomes the opportunity to ease into the match. A shocking win by Kosteniuk over the Gnomes' board one, GM Salem Saleh, shook the morale of the Norwegian team, especially given the Greek gift sacrifice that left Saleh squirming.

GM Rauf Mamedov patiently ground down GM Pranav Venkatesh in a positional line of the Sicilian Defense: Dragon Variation, capitalizing on a move-43 blunder that allowed Black to liquidate into a winning rook and pawn endgame. Meanwhile, Sarana launched a successful attack against GM Nino Batsiashvili that helped to push the Wizards to a three-point lead.

GM Gawain Jones and Batsiashvili produced glimmers of hope for the Gnomes in round two as the former cruised to victory over Kosteniuk and the latter drew with board-two Mamedov. However, the two could only watch on as their teammates fell victim to enterprising play from the Wizards' boards two and three.

Time pressure and chaos were the themes of the round on these boards, and with two familiar faces, GM Denis Lazavik and Sarana, in blitz circles duking it out for the Wizards, it was no surprise that they eventually won and confirmed a 2.5-1.5 result.

Needing to garner 2.5 points to secure the match win, the Wizards hoped to recover in the third round but were startled by the Gnomes who resiliently fought back. A two-all draw full of decisive results ensued and a time scramble went wrong between Jones and Sarana were all that stopped the Gnomes from winning the round 3-1 and pulling themselves back into contention.

Just half a point away from the required 8.5 score, the Wizards prepared to face the wrath of the Gnomes, who needed to win all four games to equalize the match and force proceedings into overtime. Pranav led the way for the Gnomes and picked up a point with the black pieces, although it soon became clear that the Wizards were running away with the match.

All three players fought to the bitter end to try and shake up the match, athough the Wizards were the only team pulling rabbits out of hats on Wednesday, flipping two results in their favor and confirming a commanding 10.5-5.5 win over the Gnomes.

Sarana's 3.5/4 week-two performance was particularly special. As commentator Naroditsky pointed out: "He had the supporting cast arrive in full force" against the Gnomes. Hess also praised the capability of Kosteniuk, stating that the former women's world champion "had herself a day."

Kosteniuk was touted as one of the PCL's top board fours and hasn't disappointed. Photo: David Llada/FIDE.

With the Wizards joining the Indian Yogis as the only teams to have won both of their matches, a showdown between the two will happen in week three.

Garden State Passers 11 - 5 Spanish Maniac Shrimps

Following a week-one loss at the hands of the Wizards, the Passers bounced back with a vengeance and defeated the Spanish Maniac Shrimps by an impressive 11-5 margin in week two.

Backed by an inspirational captain in FM James Canty, who announced, "GO PASSERS GO" on Twitter, the Passers started the day with a resounding 3-1 round-one win over the Shrimps. Like in the first match of the day, the Passers' board four, GM Bela Khotenashvili, was able to upset the Shrimps' board one, GM Jaime Santos Latasa, which set the tone of the day.

The Passers' MVP from week one, GM Sam Sevian, was just as brilliant against the Shrimps and improved on his 3.5/4 score, scoring a perfect 4/4 in Wednesday's fixture. His round-two win over GM Lance Henderson de La Fuente on the white side of the English Opening: Four Knights, Korchnoi Line was described by Naroditsky as a "complete and utter massacre," and by move 24 the American GM had all but confirmed the result.

Although round two saw the Shrimps fall 1.5-2.5, one positive sign was GM Alan Pichot's conversion against Khotenashvili to secure the Shrimps' first win with a savage bishop sacrifice.

Not to be outdone by his teammate, GM Abhimanyu Mishra kept his tactical sensors on during round two and secured a draw with Santos Latasa after a magnificent intuitive queen sacrifice that led Twitch user "jcm_maxell_" to write: "the kids these days" amidst a chat full of "OMGs" with exclamation marks.

With the Passers leading 5.5-2.5, the Shrimps needed to make an impact in round three, but any chance of a resurgence was quickly stamped out by Sevian and the once-youngest GM Mishra who decimated IM Karina Ambartsumova in a 23-move attacking masterclass.

A win on board four did keep the Shrimps' dreams of a match win alive, but with an 8-4 score now posted, it seemed unlikely that the script would flip.

Sevian finished the day in the same way that he started, defeating Santos Latasa and leaving the Shrimps' board one on a telling 1/4. Board two was more of the same, and GM Oleksandr Bortnyk rubbed salt in the wounds of the struggling Shrimps. 

Bortnyk scored an unbeaten 3/4 against the Shrimps. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The most impressive game of the round went to the 14-year-old Mishra, however, as he managed to dispatch Henderson after executing a barrage of nasty tactics in a seemingly calm endgame. Mishra's delightful attack with Black is the worthy winner of our Game of the Day, which is analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below.

The Passers' win put them right back in contention on the PCL ladder and, more importantly, the team showed the kind of flair and strength required to knock out the competition's top teams. After a heartbreaking loss in week one and a blowout loss in week two, the Shrimps will have to improve 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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