Carlsen, So, Caruana, MVL In PRO Chess 1/4 Finals
With Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, four of the world's top five grandmasters will be competing this Wednesday in the quarterfinals of Chess.com's Professional Rapid Online (PRO) Chess League.
It started with 48 teams from around the globe. Now, the PRO Chess League is slowly but surely reaching its apotheosis with its Finals Weekend at the end of this month.
But we're not there yet! With eight teams still in the competition, Wednesday March 15 will see them battling for a place in the semifinals. And, yet again, some of the biggest stars on the planet will be playing.
Four of the eight squads will be bringing a player currently in the world's top 5 of the FIDE ratings:
- World #1 GM Magnus Carlsen will again be playing for the Norway Gnomes
- World #2 GM Wesley So is board one again for the Saint Louis Archbishops
- World #3 GM Fabiano Caruana again tops the Montreal Chessbrah lineup
- World #5 GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave plays for Marseille Migraines
However, other teams are lining up some speed chess specialists, such as GM Dmitry Andreikin (Gorky Stormbringers) and GM Baadur Jobava (Stockholm Snowballs). It's not so easy to pick your favorites!
And, just like last week (when Mike Klein noted the same about top GMs not facing each other), none of these four top grandmasters play against one another in the four matchups. Carlsen, So, Caruana and MVL could potentially all be playing in the semifinals as well, and what epic matches would that bring!
Tomorrow, all four divisions will be seeing a final match to decide who is the "division winner" in this inaugural season. Let's have a look at the four matches we'll be seeing.
Eastern Division: Gorky Stormbringers vs Norway Gnomes
The Norway Gnomes have been destroying the competition since GM Magnus Carlsen started playing, but this week they will face their stiffest test of the season. They face off against the Gorky Stormbringers, who have added one of the best rapid and blitz players in the world to their already strong roster: GM Dmitry Andreikin.
Gorky's players have all shown themselves to be dangerous and underrated, and after a somewhat fortunate win against Riga in the first round of the playoffs, they advanced in a much more convincing fashion against Budapest last week. Will the underdog Stormbringers continue to advance, or will the World Champion lead the Gnomes to the Final Four?
Central Division: Marseille Migraines vs Stockholm Snowballs
The Stockholm Snowballs have performed well all season long, with impressive and solid play by GM Georg Meier. However they decided that in order to beat a team as powerful as Marseille, they may need an extra boost. This week they have added GM Baduur Jobava to the lineup.
With a 1-2 punch of Jobava and Meier, we are going to see one of the most incredible matches of the season, as these two superstars will face off against GM Maxime Vachier Lagrave and many time French Champion, GM Etienne Bacrot.
Atlantic Division: Montreal Chessbrahs vs Buenos Aires Krakens
The Chessbrahs have one of the most versatile lineups in the league, and this week is no exception as they start the match with GM Fabiano Caruana playing two games, and end the match with Chinese superstar GM Li Chao playing two games. The only player who will be playing all four games is the original Chessbrah himself: GM Eric Hansen.
Meanwhile, the Buenos Aires have been a tight knit and consistent team all season long. This week they have their normal three stars: GM Sandro Mareco, GM Federico Ponsa Perez and GM Alan Pichot. Mareco is coming off the move of the season, as his queen sacrifice against GM Hikaru Nakamura eliminated the powerful Miami Champions.
The Chessbrahs have been nearly perfect all season long except for one loss... to the Buenos Aires Krakens. Montreal hopes it doesn't happen a second time.
Pacific Division: St. Louis Arch Bishops vs Webster Windmills
These teams have been dominant all season, with both having just one loss to their name. The Windmills shocked everyone by shellacking the Arch Bishops in the second week of the PRO Chess League Season. Since then St. Louis has been in control and have won every other match.
GM Wesley So has an incredible 22/24, and the Arch Bishops will need a big performance from him. However the Bishops also add Millionaire Open Champion GM Dariusz Swiercz and GM Yaroslav Zherebukh to the lineup. Wesley and Yaroslav will both be competing in the 2017 U.S. Championship.
The Windmills have their typical balanced lineup full of talented young grandmasters. Webster has so many strong players on campus that they like to make use of their many different possible lineups. Some grandmasters that will be playing this week are GMs Ray Robson, Ilya Nyzhnyk, Alexander Shimanov, Manuel Leon Hoyos, Vasif Durabayli and Jayaram Ashwin. That's a whopping six GM's in one match!
As for the pundits, the predictions are slowly coming in. Interestingly, IM Robert Ris doesn't expect all top GMs to reach the semis.
Our own Shaun McCoy seems to play if more safely, whereas Tarjei Svensen expects to score 4/4 this week with his predictions. Well, he's gonna need that if he wants to catch up with NM Alex King, who kind of agrees with Ris.
Full pairings, lineups, and start times can be found here. The action starts at 10:00 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. New York; 6:00 p.m. CET) Wednesday, March 15. You can catch live commentary at either Chess.com/TV or Twitch.tv/chess.
Read up on everything you need to know about the PRO Chess League: