Carlsen, So, Caruana Advance To PRO Chess Championship Weekend
The top three players in the world (Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, and Fabiano Caruana) have helped drive their teams (The Norway Gnomes, the Montreal ChessBrahs, and the St. Louis Arch Bishops) to the semi-finals in the inaugural season of the Professional Rapid Online (PRO) Chess League.
They are joined by a more balanced team, the Stockholm Snowballs, who handily defeated the Marseille Migraines, another team lead by a top-five player, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
Gorky Stormbringers vs Norway Gnomes: 6.5-9.5
For this match, the Stormbringers brought in a big free agent as GM Dmitry Andreikin signed with the team. While the Gnomes were the league favorites, the Stormbringers had draw odds and were consistently outperforming their rating.
The Gnomes also had a new player as GM Kjetil Lie made it into their lineup for the first time. He proved a boon to them as he scored 2.5/4, winning stylishly in his first game.
...before unleashing an excellent piece sacrifice and gaining a winning position against Andreikin.
Another key point was this incredible missed opportunity by IM Azat Sharafiev against Hammer as he threw all of his pieces Hammer's way and was nearly rewarded.
Lie's great play bolstered by the expected strong showings from Carlsen and GM Jon Ludwig Hammer gave the Gnomes a big lead going into the final round. They only had to avoid a 4-0 whitewash to win the match. That was however not so easy, as it soon turned they were worse on every board! After a mysterious blunder, Carlsen even lost his first game in the PRO Chess League to Andreikin.
Nerve wracking last round as we are worse on every board! #prochess— Norway Gnomes ( @NorwayGnomes) March 15, 2017
Marseille Migraines vs Stockholm Snowballs: 6.5-9.5
Stockholm clearly took this match seriously, bolstering their already strong roster by signing GM Baadur Jobava. Jobava had a strong day, scoring 3.5/4, but GM Georg Meier (an MVP candidate) had an equally good one. In contrast, Vachier-Lagrave started well, achieving two truly fine wins.
But Vachier-Lagrave finished poorly, uncharacteristically letting a bloodlust govern his moves and sacrificing unsoundly and losing against both Jobava and Meier.
@GMGeorgMeier) March 16, 2017
Montreal Chessbrahs vs Buenos Aires Krakens: 10-6
Buenos Aires has been impressive all season long, but this week they ran into a GMs Fabiano Caruana/Li Chao and Eric Hansen shaped buzzsaw. As both Montreal's boards one and two scored 3.5/4, Buenos Aires needed truly massive scores against Montreal's lower boards. They didn't get it (scoring 2/4 on boards one through three and zero on board four), and thus Montreal advanced.
For the second week in a row, Caruana played a really nice attack, crushing Pichot's Sicilian Defense.
One real opportunity for the Krakens came when GM Federico Perez Ponsa had an excellent attack building against GM Li Chao, but couldn't quite conclude the game in light of excellent defense from his opponent.
@DanielRensch) March 16, 2017
Saint Louis Arch Bishops vs Webster Windmills: 8-8
The primary story of this match is that GM Wesley So is really, really good at chess. He won all four of his games this week and made it look relatively easy.
So's score thus far in the PRO Chess League is 26/28! His teammates sometimes suffered as Webster's strategy sometimes seemed to be to field a lineup with a weaker player against So to bolster their chances on the other boards.
GM Vasif Durarbayli won a really excellent game with the opposite-colored bishops attacking in a "simple" position against GM Yaroslav Zherebukh.
Zherebukh also suffered at the hands of GM Ray Robson as the latter played commentator GM Jess Kraai's favorite game in the PRO Chess League.
@Gmasterg4) March 16, 2017
The consequence was a strong showing from Webster, but they could not overcome the draw odds. The Arch Bishops, with the better tiebreaks, advance to the semi-finals.
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@PROChessLeague) March 17, 2017
@PROChessLeague) March 17, 2017
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