Saint Louis Arch Bishops Win 2020 PRO Chess League

Saint Louis Arch Bishops Win 2020 PRO Chess League

| 160 | Chess Event Coverage

Editor's Note: After Fair Play review, the Saint Louis Arch Bishops have won the 2020 PRO Chess League season.

On Sunday the Armenia Eagles won the 2020 PRO Chess League by defeating the Saint Louis Arch Bishops 9.5-6.5. The Eagles won $20,000 for their victory while the Arch Bishops earned $10,000.

Today's upset victory means the second title for the Eagles, who also won in 2018. The Arch Bishops won in 2017 and 2019. The China Pandas came third this year after beating the Canada Chessbrahs on Saturday.

The final was played between the only two teams that had won all their matches in the regular season. In the playoffs, the Pandas defeated the India Yogis in the quarterfinals back in March and then the Canada Chessbrahs last Friday.

In total, their championship included 10 straight team victories. The Eagles scored 102 board points out of a possible 160. Over the whole season, the Arch Bishops scored one and a half board points more but lost the crucial match.

The broadcast of the final with GM Robert Hess and IM Anna Rudolf.

It was a team with three young players and one highly experienced grandmaster that emerged victoriously. GM Raunak Sadhwani is only 14, while GM Haik Martirosyan and GM Parham Maghsoodloo are both 20.

However, it was 36-year-old GM Tigran L. Petrosian—the only player of the four who played in three consecutive league seasons—who became the Man of the Match. The namesake of Armenia's world champion in the 1960s scored a stunning 3.5/4 against four players who are rated at least 100 higher than him in standard chess.

The 21st-century Petrosian also brought back memories of another world champion. With the white pieces, he defeated both GM Leinier Dominguez and GM Wesley So with the King's Indian Attack, a weapon that is not considered too dangerous anymore but one that was used with great effect by Bobby Fischer.

Here's how Petrosian won with that opening in the crucial fourth round:

Tigran L. Petrosian Armenia Eagles PRO Chess League
Amazingly, even 4-0 would have been possible for Petrosian as he was winning a few moves before the end of his drawn game with GM Jeffery Xiong. But he also defeated GM Fabiano Caruana as Black. It must be noted that in this one, Caruana was winning:

It was Caruana's second loss, in round four, that meant game, set, and match for the Armenia Eagles. Maghsoodloo had been on the defending side for most of the game, but when everything got traded on the queenside, White's advantage was gone. Almost right away, the endgame was pretty unpleasant for Caruana who also had less time.

Caruana, the MVP for the Arch Bishops in the four seasons combined, scored just 1.5/4 in the final. So was the only player on the team with a plus score. He made 2.5 points and lost to only Petrosian. Xiong drew all four games. Dominguez had the worst day of all, scoring only half a point out of four.

One more game deserves special mention: the epic clash between Martirosyan and Caruana. Initially, it was the latter who built up a winning endgame, but again with just a few seconds left on the clock, he lost track and was soon lost himself before the game eventually ended in a draw. Both players smiled on camera.

Asked about his secret, Petrosian didn't have a particularly child-friendly first reply when he (jokingly?) revealed that he had been drinking gin during the match. But he continued: "I'm a retired chess player, but I like blitz and rapid. Usually, I'm not playing bad in this kind of stuff, so I am happy that I could help my team."

Maghsoodloo, who scored the decisive point, said that he was mistakenly under the impression that Sadhwani had lost his game. "That gave me some fighting spirit to play for a win against Fabiano. I was OK with a draw, but I thought that a win would [make] us champion."

The 14-year-old Sadhwani drew twice and lost twice in the final, but played a big role in the semifinal against the Canada Chessbrahs where he drew three times and won one game. "In the semifinal, I was in pretty good shape," he said. "Today I was also playing well, but the opposition was much stronger."

We might see Sadhwani back in action this week, but surely the two friends Maghsoodloo and Martirosyan. First, they face each other in a direct match in the Junior Speed Chess Championship on Monday, and then they will participate in another Speed Chess Championship Grand Prix on Tuesday where the two 20-year-olds are currently in third and fourth place.

Final | All games

PRO Chess League final bracket

The PRO Chess League finals were the culmination of the fourth season that began on January 6, 2020, followed by the playoffs held in March. The final four teams brought top grandmasters to fight for a $40,000 total prize fund, with $20,000 going to the winning team.

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