Anand, Vachier-Lagrave, Super-GMs Aid Teams To Victory In PRO Chess League Playoffs

Anand, Vachier-Lagrave, Super-GMs Aid Teams To Victory In PRO Chess League Playoffs

SamCopeland
NM SamCopeland
Mar 14, 2018, 7:38 PM |
7 | Chess.com News

Predicting results in the Professional Rapid Online (PRO) Chess League continues to be incredibly difficult. In the eight matches in round one of the PRO Chess League playoffs, three of the four divisional top seeds were upset by the fourth seeds. Two of the third seeds also upset the second seeds. Those doing some quick mental math will have spotted that there were in fact more underdogs winning than favorites!

What was a winning link between teams? Those teams with 2700+ players like Viswanathan Anand and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave consistently defeated more balanced teams. Was this sheer chance or an indication that top-heavy lineups are preferable?

Next Wednesday will be the divisional finals for the Eastern, Central, Atlantic, and Pacific divisions. The winners of each division head to San Francisco to battle it out in person.

Cast your vote in the game and move of the week polls!

PRO Chess League Playoff Highlights: Super-GM Squads Advance

What's the best way to construct a roster in the PRO Chess League? Do you stack it with super-GMs, or do you balance the lineup and keep everyone as close to the 2500 rating cap as possible?

In the first round of the PRO Chess League playoffs, the answer seemed to be to stack the lineup. Super-GMs Viswanathan Anand, Santosh Vidit Gujrathi, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Etienne Bacrot, Vladimir Fedoseev, Yu Yangyi, and Li Chao were all critical to their team's advancement.

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Is Li Chao the highest-rated manager in the PRO Chess League? No. That honor belongs to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

The only teams with super-GMs that failed to advance were the Delhi Dynamite (fielding Pentala Harikrishna) who were eliminated be the Mumbai Movers (with two super-GMs), and the Webster Windmills, who sat GM Le Quang Liem this week.

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Could Le Quang Liem have been the missing link in the solid Windmills lineup?

Collectively, those rated 2700+ scored 24.5/32. In every division finals next week, one team is fielding at least one super-GM while their opponents are field none. Will the top-heavy teams carry the day again, or will they by toppled by more balanced lineups?

PRO Chess League Playoff Highlights: Only Three Brackets Unbusted

How many people submitted a perfect bracket in round one of the PRO Chess League playoffs? Three.

Busting numerous brackets were the Ljubljana Turtles and the Minnesota Blizzard. Both were seeded fourth, yet they defeated the first seed. The Australia Kangaroos also upset the top seed in their division, but many favored their stacked lineup over the hot San Diego Surfers team.

Who had these three perfect lineups? Well two of these PRO pickers were well-known to league fans.

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Who else does IM Anna Rudolf have in her bracket? She's predicting the Movers, Migraines, Arch Bishops, and Pandas to win next week. In the finals, she is calling a Migraines victory with the Pandas placing second and the Arch Bishops, third. Do you think she will be proven right?

Just learning about the PRO Chess League? Visit the site and read the rules.

Eastern Division

Central Division

Atlantic Division

Pacific Division


Mumbai Movers Deliver Clutch Victory Over Delhi Dynamite

One could not ask for more playoff drama than an all-India match featuring India's three 2700+ players! The Mumbai Movers featured both GMs Viswanathan Anand and Santosh Vidit Gujrathi in their lineup while the Dynamite had GM Pentala Harikrishna in theirs.

Although on paper and according to Chess.com's stats department, the Movers were favored, the Dynamite had the better regular season record and draw odds in the case of an 8-8 match tie.

The Movers pulled ahead 6-4, but it was just then that the Dynamite scored a key win from IM Hemant Sharma over GM Diptayan Ghosh.

With the match tied entering the final round, the odds were in the Dynamite's favor, but after early draws on boards three and four, the high-rated Movers were in a position to press. Vidit proved to be the champion for his team as he won a stylish game, defeating GM Abhijeet Gupta with a great exchange sacrifice.

2018 PRO Chess League | Playoffs Round 1 | Delhi Dynamite vs Mumbai Movers

Dynamite Movers Viswanathan Anand Vidit Gujrathi Diptayan Ghosh Dharia Parnali 8.5
Harikrishna Pentala 3
Abhijeet Gupta 2
Tania Sachdev 1
Hemant Sharma 1.5
7.5 3 3 1.5 1

Armenia Eagles Topple Estonia Horses

Intuitively, Eagles are a poor match for Horses, but they have been known to make short work of other quadrupeds.

While the final match score was heavily in the Eagles' favor, the Horses did get in some good kicks before succumbing today. For example, see GM Avital Boruchovsky's fine same-colored bishops win over Eagles' manager Artak Manukyan.

Manukyan struck back though, scoring a critical win with a stunning move against the Horses' excellent board three, GM Jaan Ehlvest.

This was really the nail in the Horses' coffin. With this upset, they pulled into a 7-3 lead, still holding those draw odds. One final queen trap sealed the win for the Eagles with a round to go.

2018 PRO Chess League | Playoffs Round 1 | Armenia Eagles vs Estonia Horses

Eagles Horses Avital Boruchovsky Ottomar Ladva Jaan Ehlvest Sander Kukk 5.5
Hrant Melkumyan 3
Zaven Andriasyan 3
Karen Grigoryan 3.5
Artak Manukyan 1
10.5 2 2 0.5 1

Ljubljana Turtles Snag Blundered Rook, Defeat Stockholm Snowballs

The Ljubljana Turtles were considered the underdogs against the strong Stockholm Snowballs, but the Turtles grabbed an early lead in the match and kept the pressure on their opponents.

With tensions at their maximum in the final round, the match ultimately came down to a key moment in the board four matchup. The Snowballs were in position to win and have a real shot at closing the match to 8-8 when they would advance as the higher seed.

In a totally winning position, Orndahl made a horrific blunder. Any chess player can surely relate to this pain.

2018 PRO Chess League | Playoffs Round 1 | Stockholm Snowballs vs Ljubljana Turtles

Snowballs Turtles Luka Lenic Jure Borisek Matej Sebenik Luka Skuhala 9
Georg Meier 2.5
Evgenij Agrest 1
Kirill Alekseenko 3
Markus Orndahl 0.5
7 2 3 2 2

Marseille Migraines Oust Cannes Blockbusters

France was only big enough for one PRO Chess League playoff team. The Marseille Migraines defeated the Cannes Blockbusters to claim the title as the greatest French PRO Chess League team. Marseille advances to the divisional championship next week.

The Migraines have consistently relied on their murderers' row of GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Etienne Bacrot, and Yannick Gozzoli to win matches, and this week was no different. Despite a goose egg on board four, the Migraines won the match by a clean point.

Bacrot slightly underperformed, drawing three and winning only one game, but it was a very nice one.

2018 PRO Chess League | Playoffs Round 1 | Marseille Migraines vs Cannes Blockbusters

Migraines Blockbusters Robert Fontaine Fabien Libiszewski Valentina Gunina Barseghyan Harutyun 7
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 3.5
Etienne Bacrot 2.5
Yannick Gozzoli 3
Marc Andria Maurizzi 0
9 2 1.5 2.5 1

Saint Louis Arch Bishops Shut Out Shabalov, Defeat Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers

It can be difficult to win matches when your fourth board outperforms your board one. That's exactly what happened to the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers as their board one, GM Alexander Shabalov, scored 0/4 against the Saint Louis Arch Bishops. Shabalov has been sturdy all season long for the Pawngrabbers, but his results have always been unpredictable, and it seems he was just not on form today.

In contrast, FM Edward Song did incredibly well for the Pawngrabbers today, scoring an undefeated 3/4. One of the match's most interesting moments was when he let the Arch Bishops' board one, GM Vladimir Fedoseev, off with a draw.

2018 PRO Chess League | Playoffs Round 1 | Saint Louis Arch Bishops vs Pittsburgh Pawnsgrabbers

Pawngrabbers Arch Bishops Vladimir Fedoseev Varuzhan Akobian Yaroslav Zherebukh Forest Chen 10
Alexander Shabalov 0
Awonder Liang 1.5
Atulya Shetty 1.5
Edward Song 3
6 3 2.5 3.5 1

Minnesota Blizzard Stun Top-Seed Webster Windmills

The Minnesota Blizzard pulled off one of the more spectacular upsets thus far in the PRO Chess League as they defeated the Webster Windmills, eliminating them from the PRO Chess League playoffs. The Windmills entered the match as the top seed in the Atlantic Division, but as they have done all season, the Blizzard out-performed their ratings.

On their all-GM squad, a key performer for the Blizzard was GM Mauricio Flores who scored 3/4 including this great final-round victory that put the Blizzard over the top. 

2018 PRO Chess League | Playoffs Round 1 | Webster Windmills vs Minnesota Blizzard

Windmills Blizzard Mauricio Flores Andrew Tang Akshat Chandra Nikola Mitkov 8.5
Aleksandr Shimanov 2.5
Ray Robson 3
Illia Nyzhnyk 2
Thalia Cervantes 0
7.5 3 1.5 1.5 2.5

Australia Kangaroos Clobber San Diego Surfers

The San Diego Surfers had an amazing regular season, taking the top seed in a tough Pacific Division and finishing the regular season on a five-match winning streak. Unfortunately, their run concluded in the post-season.

The Australia Kangaroos defeated the Surfers 10.5-5.5, getting fantastic 3.5/4 scores from both GMs Alexey Sarana and Anton Smirnov on boards one and two. In a difficult day, good games consistently turned against the Surfers. Here's one in which they looked to be winning, but IM Michael Brown stumbled into an unfortunate mate against IM Kanan Izzat.

2018 PRO Chess League | Playoffs Round 1 | San Diego Surfers vs Australia Kangaroos

Surfers Kangaroos Alexey Sarana Anton Smirnov Kanan Izzat Temur Kuybokarov 10.5
Alexey Dreev 2.5
Michael Brown 0.5
Keaton Kiewra 1.5
Joshua Sheng 1
5.5 3.5 3.5 1.5 2

Chengdu Pandas Survive Dallas Destiny

The Chengdu Pandas conceded a match draw to the Dallas Destiny, but they still advanced to the next round of the PRO Chess League playoff due to being the higher seed.

The Pandas again relied on their incredible due of GMs Yu Yangyi and Li Chao who scored 3/4 and 3.5/4 respectively. In contrast, the Pandas did not get many points from GM Ju Wenjun and Li Zhaoyang. They will probably need stronger play from their lower boards to win the PRO Chess League as many predicted them to do in their brackets.

One of the most exhilarating games in the match was this 116-move duel between IM Luke Harmon-Vellotti and Li Chao.

2018 PRO Chess League | Playoffs Round 1 | Chengdu Pandas vs Dallas Destiny

Pandas Destiny Conrad Holt Andrey Gorovets Luke Harmon-Vellotti Titas Stremavicius 8
Yu Yangyi 3
Li Chao 3.5
Ju Wenjun 1
Li Zhaoyang 0.5
8 2 2.5 2 1.5
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