6 Teams Qualify For PRO Chess League; You Pick 2 More!
As commenter IM David Pruess observed, heartbreak was inevitable as 38 excellent PRO Chess League teams competed for only 8 berths in the 2018 season of the PRO Chess League.
The ultimate qualifiers (the Armenia Eagles, Estonia Horses, Mumbai Movers, Chengdu Pandas, Seattle Sluggers, and Australia Kangaroos) demonstrated the global nature of chess and the PRO Chess League as no countries qualified more than one team and four continents were represented. Here are the top six teams in each qualifier with the top three teams having secured qualification to the PRO Chess League. Full crosstables for both qualifiers featuring all individual results are available in the complete crosstables below.
|Place||Early Qualifier||Late Qualifier|
|1||Armenia Eagles||Chengdu Pandas|
|2||Estonia Horses||Seattle Sluggers|
|3||Mumbai Movers||Australia Kangaroos|
|4||Oslo Trolls||New York Knights|
|5||Apeldoorn Apes||Minnesota Blizzard|
|6||Rehovot Masters||SF Mechanics|
Places 4-6 in both the early and late qualifiers are eligible to qualify via a fan vote. One additional team will be voted in from each qualifier.
Polls are available on both Twitter and Chess.com for 72 hours after this article was published. Votes will be accumulated from both the Twitter and Chess.com polls and viewers are permitted and even encouraged to cast an honest vote in all four polls!
@PROChessLeague) October 29, 2017
@PROChessLeague) October 29, 2017
Polls from the early and late qualifiers on Chess.com are available here:
The format for the qualifier was as follows: a swiss system featuring 15 rounds of 3|2 blitz. Teams submitted a four-player lineup with an average rating below 2500 and scores from all four players were summed to achieve the team scores.
Teammates absolutely could and did play each other in the event with some waging serious battles and some choosing to rapidly agree a draw and save their energy for future rounds.
22 teams and 88 players tried their luck in the early qualifier, dedicated to European, African, and Western Asian teams seeking to compete in the Central and Eastern divisions of the PRO Chess League. Four teams, Guntur, Uganda, Nantes and the Madrid Sharks, dropped out prior to the start of play.
The hottest start was achieved by the Malmö Moomins. On first board, they had GM Nils Grandelius who started with 5/5, the only player to start with a perfect score. Grandelius has one of the best Chess.com usernames on record: Grandelicious. He gave some short comments while his team was riding high.
@MalmoMoomins) October 28, 2017
The Moomins were engaged in a friendly rivalry with their countrymen, the Stockholm Wasabis who streamed commentary from the legendary GM Pia Cramling in Swedish. Unfortunately, the Wasabis were never able to elevate their team into the top places as GM Tom Wedberg struggled.
@SthlmWasabis) October 28, 2017
Returning to the Moomins, the Nils Grandelius train was stopped by GM Santosh Vidit Gujrathi who won with a mysterious exchange sac that baffled the commenters and Grandelius.
This was one of many fine games won by Vidit who benefited from a mixture of incredible skill and significant luck to eventually win clear first in the event by 1.5 points!
@viditchess) October 28, 2017
One example of both his significant skill and luck was the following game where he was completely winning, then nearly losing, and finally drawing with a remarkable perpetual!
Vidit's excellent performance ultimately elevated his team, the Mumbai Movers, into one of the coveted top-three slots and qualification, but another Indian favorite, the Hyderabad Hawks were not so blessed.
Early in the tournament, GM Harika Dronovalli missed a nice mate, ceding a half-point that her team could have used.
More significant was the relatively poor performance of GM Parimarjan Negi. Negi is a great talent who was for a long time the second-youngest GM ever ahead of Carlsen. Yesterday, he became the third-youngest GM ever as the remarkable Uzbekistani talent, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, earned his GM title.
@chesscom) October 29, 2017
Negi's 7.5/15 was not a bad score, but his team needed more from their board one if they hoped to qualify. Negi has been in semi-retirement from competitive chess while he pursues his degree at Stanford. While the rust was showing, it was great to see him back in action, and chess fans surely hope he will play more chess in future!
@HarikaDronavali) October 28, 2017
The ultimate first and second place finishers in the event, the Armenia Eagles and the Estonia Horses showed the value of balanced lineups. Entering as their first and third place team by seeds, they arguably lacked the prestige of an elite board one, but they each managed to grab top 15 spots for ALL of their top three boards. With solid fourth-board performances, they easily locked in victorious slots.
Armenia Eagle's board one GM Zaven Andriasyan also entered the event with the top seed according to Chess.com blitz ratings and secured shared second with Grandelius.
@ChessifyMe) October 28, 2017
Meanwhile GM Sergey Shipov of the Estonia Horses provided streaming commentary for the entirety of his qualification attempt. It did not seem to negatively affect his play as he finished 13th and was often among the leaders.
What was the sweetest move in the early PRO Chess League qualifier? The author thinks it must be this bomb drop from Aleksandr Kumala whose Radom Randoms unfortunately missed the cut.
Early Qualifier Team Results
|Israel Pawn Pushers||30|
Early Qualifier Individual Results
|15||86||saguri2017||SALVADOR GUERRA RIVERA||9||Madrid|
|21||7||IM||JoachimBN||Joachim B Nilsen||8.5||Oslo|
|22||28||IM||nubair1198||Mohammad Nubairshah Shaikh||8.5||Mumbai|
|32||19||IM||Bengalas||Luis Rubio Mejía||8||Madrid|
|51||75||IM||Rooie2016||Merijn van Delft||7||Apeldoorn|
|61||68||FM||Ivanandresglez||Ivan Andres Gonzalez||6.5||Oviedo|
|64||77||el_greek||Gabriel Chess Trainer||6.5||Bucharest|
|65||81||cuttappa||Chakravarthy Y V K||6.5||Amaravati|
|70||37||IM||larso||Lars Oskar Hauge||6||Oslo|
|84||74||ZAF||FM||silverback96||Roberto De Abreu||4.5||Johannesburg|
Find the full crosstable and all games on the tournament page.
IMs David Pruess and Anna Rudolf provided commentary on the early qualifier. Find their full commentary at twitch.tv/chess.
With only one pre-qualifier withdrawal (the Patagonia Penguins), 13 teams and 56 players lined up to play the late qualifier to qualify for the Pacific and Atlantic divisions. This year the PRO Chess League was pleased to welcome qualification attempts (ultimately successful) from the other side of the Pacific as two teams from Australia and one team from China elected to compete with the many North and South American teams.
The late qualifier had a bumpy streaming start, but few were bothered as GM and top-seed Hikaru Nakamura had chosen to broadcast his play on his personal Twitch channel! Hundreds elected to watch his incredibly high-level blitz commentary.
Nakamura was playing for the Seattle Sluggers who participated in the 2017 PRO Chess League, but weren't able to secure a playoff spot. With Nakamura on board one, they are clearly a team to be feared.
The second seed in the event was GM Yu Yangyi who competed for the Chengdu Pandas. With their winning qualification performance, they become the first Chinese team into the PRO Chess League. They clearly demonstrated their prowess in the qualifier and will surely be a force in the regular season. Here Yu Yangyi got the better of Nakamura with some clever tactics.
Although this is their first time playing, their manager Li Chao competed as a free agent for the Montreal Chessbrahs last year and will surely have lots of wisdom to pass on. Their elite talent is perhaps not the scariest aspect of the Pandas. They had excellent performances from their top three boards as boards two and three finished 4th and 6th behind Yu Yangyi's shared first! It has often been said that Chinese players are underrated because only the National team members get regular chances to play FIDE events; based on this qualifier, that appears to be true!
Despite Yu Yangyi's and Nakamura's presence and ultimate victory, the only player to achieve a perfect score after five rounds was GM Daniel Naroditsky, who has proved himself a force in blitz and bullet chess with one of the highest ratings on site.
@PROChessLeague) October 28, 2017
Naroditsy is now playing for the San Francisco Mechanics who weren't able to grab a top three spot and will have to pin their hopes on the fan vote to get a berth this year.
A team that delivered on their high average rating of 2497 was the Australia Kangaroos! Lead by team manager GM Max Illingworth, they are the first team from the southernmost habitable continent to join the PRO Chess League! They bested their countrymen, the Australia Blitzkreig who were among the leaders for some time but faded down the stretch.
Illingworth will be familiar to many from his regular presence on Chess.com and his popular blog which contains many excellent chess puzzles, such as this one:
@chesscom) October 2, 2017
Another team needing success in the fan vote is the Minnesota Blizzard. Their highest score was achieved by IM Andrew Tang who is a legendary bullet player. Here he nearly gets the best of Yu Yangyi despite playing with seconds on the clock.
@fins0905) October 28, 2017
The final hopeful team is the New York who were lead by Chess.com regulars GMs Mark Pargua and Oliver Barbosa. Strong finishes from both elevated them into top 12 twelve individual places and a sixth place finish as they edged out GM Ben Finegold's Atlanta Kings.
With play completed and scores tabulated, it's up to you! Be sure to vote and show your support for the two additional teams you want to see in the regular season!
Late Qualifier Team Results
|New York Knights||34|
Late Qualifier Individual Results
|3||4||GM||DanielNaroditsky||Daniel Naroditsky||11.5||San Francisco|
|7||9||GM||Hamonde||Mark Paragua||9.5||New York|
|8||52||Real-boy||Джурабек Хамракулов||9||New York|
|12||47||GM||barzed||Oliver Barbosa||8.5||New York|
|18||48||blitis||Jacques Blit||8||Buenos Aires|
|19||35||IM||yian123||Yian Liou||8||San Francisco|
|21||14||GM||Trade09||Krikor Sevag Mekhitarian||8||Sao Paolo|
|37||32||GM||elefante33||Felipe El Debs||6.5||Sao Paolo|
|39||36||martinbitel||martin sokolov||6.5||Buenos Aires|
|40||15||IM||RobertoJBM||Roberto Junio Brito Molina||6.5||Sao Paolo|
|41||24||IM||elextranjero00||Ernesto Real de Azua||6.5||UNTREF|
|43||37||GM||vbhat||Vinay Bhat||6||San Francisco|
|48||50||patasss||Ivan gustavo balza||5.5||Buenos Aires|
|50||31||IM||LastHeroJr||German Della Morte||5||Buenos Aires|
Find the full crosstable and all games on the tournament page.
IM Lawrence Trent and WGM Jennifer Shahade commented on the late qualifier. Their full commentary is available on twitch.tv/chess.