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Norway Gnomes Qualify For Playoffs; Saint Louis Arch Bishops Cook Shrimps

Norway Gnomes Qualify For Playoffs; Saint Louis Arch Bishops Cook Shrimps

AnthonyLevin
| 23 | Chess Event Coverage

On the final day of week four of the 2023 Pro Chess League, the Norway Gnomes defeated Team MGD1 and made it to the Playoffs. In the second match, the Saint Louis Arch Bishops eliminated the Spanish Maniac Shrimps.

GM Pranav V was indisputably the MVP of the first match as he took down the opposing boards one and two with back-to-back victories, ultimately winning three games with one draw. GM Benjamin Bok scored the most points for the Arch Bishops while their board four, FM Alice Lee, held her own against strong opposition and scored the final victory for her team.

It's do or don't as we enter week five, the final week, where a match loss for every team means elimination while one more victory means a spot in the Playoffs. The action begins on Thursday, March 16, 2023, starting at 7:30 a.m. PT/16:30 CET, as the Saint Louis Arch Bishops will be back to face the Croatia Bulldogs. On the same day, following that, the Canada Chessbrahs will take on the Blitz. 

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 Daniel Naroditsky and Robert Hess.


Team MGD1 7 - 9 Norway Gnomes

Boards two through four carried the Gnomes on Friday, underlining the fact that every point matters, no matter which player earns it, in these matches.

Pranav went on a near-perfect rampage, GM David Howell scored 3/4, and WIM Chelsie Monica contributed an upset win over GM Amin Tabatabaei.

The Gnomes took a one-point lead in round one, owing much to a miracle save by Howell against GM Harika Dronavalli

In a completely winning pawn endgame, Dronavalli perhaps misclicked or simply rushed—with just one move, the plus-a-million position plummeted to the dreaded 0.00 evaluation, just like that.

Pranav was a machine on Friday as he dismantled the opposing boards two and then one, Tabatabaei and GM Arjun Erigaisi, one after another. 

His second win, against the Indian super-grandmaster, featured a seismic exchange sacrifice followed by a hail of black pieces against the enemy king. This is our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Dejan Bojkov below

The even bigger upset, however, was Monica's upset win with the black pieces over Tabatabaei, leaving the nigh-2700-rated Iranian grandmaster on a 0/2 score.

It wasn't a fluke or simply a missed tactic. After neutralizing the white pieces in the opening, she gained space in the center. She played a temporary bishop sacrifice, 19.Bxc4!, and then went on to outplay her fearsome opponent with greater piece harmony and a better pawn structure despite material still being equal.

If we've learned one thing from this PCL season it's that it ain't over till it's over. Team MGD1 dominated the third round and, besides a near-loss in Howell-Erigaisi where the latter saved a miracle draw, they nearly won all three of the other games.

After the clip of Erigaisi's tremendous defense in a lost position, commentator Hess explains it in the video below.

Meanwhile, Tabatabaei, with the black pieces, earned his first victory in the match, against board one GM Pavel Eljanov, and Dronavalli handily took down Monica. IM Aditya Mittal was up a piece against Pranav, but the latter managed to muddy the waters just enough to earn a clutch half point.

The score going into round four was 5.5-6.5 in favor of the Gnomes. The final round would not be a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination.

In fact, we were just one game away from seeing tiebreaks.

Dronavalli was winning with the black pieces against Pranav, and a win would have catapulted this tumultuous match into blitz tiebreaks. In the end, however, she saw the winning sequence but mixed up the move order—with dire consequences for Team MGD1.

The Gnomes make it to the Playoffs, while Team MGD1 moves on to week five. 

Spanish Maniac Shrimps 7 - 9  Saint Louis Arch Bishops

This one was an elimination match and the teams fought for their lives. A loss for either team would mean elimination. 

The Shrimps took a one-point lead in the first round after a serious scare. Teenage Lee, who had already taken down GM Matthias Bluebaum last week, had GM Alan Pichot on the ropes.

In the mutual time scramble, however, the Argentinian grandmaster slipped out and even won the game. This didn't discourage the 13-year-old as she drew GM Eduardo Iturrizaga in round two.

The Arch Bishops took over the match lead in this round, and GM Fabiano Caruana played what he and the commentators agreed was his best game of the day. 

Although Iturrizaga rebounded with a victory against Caruana in the following round, the Arch Bishops maintained a 2-2 score overall in round three.

The American champion described this game as "one of the worst games anyone has played probably this year," adding, "but at least it was exciting and it didn't cost us the match." 

The Arch Bishops won the final round, where all the games were drawn except that of IM Sabrina Vega Gutierrez vs. Lee on board four. She won in 27 moves.

The Missouri team's board one was impressed with the young lady's performance the last two weeks and speculated about Lee's future: "I think she has very good chances of becoming a grandmaster." 

The Arch Bishops live another week, where they will either make it or break it in their run to the Playoffs. The Shrimps, who were the one team to win a grueling qualifier for the main event, end their journey in week four and earn $4,000 for their efforts.

Standings | Week 4


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 March and features top players like GMs Magnus Carlsen, Daniel Naroditsky, and Hikaru Nakamura.


Previous coverage:

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