Eight Teams Advance to PRO Chess Quarterfinals

Eight Teams Advance to PRO Chess Quarterfinals

| 10 | News

The first week of the 2019 PRO Chess League Playoffs saw eight teams progress to the quarterfinals, where they will each vie for a coveted spot in the live PRO Chess League Final in San Francisco this May.

Their progression means that the PRO Chess League season came to an end for teams like the New York Marshalls, Dallas Destiny, and the Amsterdam Mosquitoes.

For crosstables and games from all matches, visit our weekly results page.

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

Atlantic Division: Montclair's Late Surge Not Enough, Saint Louis Moves On

Last week, the Montclair Sopranos snuck their way into the Playoffs with a heroic Battle Royale performance. However, if the Sopranos wanted to progress further, they would need to avenge their biggest loss of the season against the Saint Louis Arch Bishops.

Unlike last year's Round of 16 match-up, the Saint Louis Arch Bishops had earned the tiebreak in regular season play, meaning that an 8-8 tie would see the 2017 PRO Chess League Champions move on.

Without Lenderman or Sevian on the line-up, Saint Louis was able to build and early lead, as the tandem of GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Wesley So put pressure early on, both starting 2/2. So produced this grinding win against IM Raven Sturt to put the Arch Bishops in front.

While Saint Louis continued to score points from their top two boards, Montclair's top two were resilient too. GM Gadir Guseinov and newly minted GM Nicolas Checa kept Montclair within reach, scoring a combined 3/4 to make a 5-3 halftime score, in favor of the regular season Atlantic Division Champions.

When Caruana beat Checa, things seemed particularly bleak for the Sopranos, as they trailed 4.5-7.5 with four games remaining. Needing a perfect score, Guseinov opened the scoring with an aggressive win against the second best player in the world:

Sturt and GM Michael Rohde tallied points from third and fourth board for the Sopranos, but a comfortable draw from So meant that the Sopranos were sent home packing after an 8-8 finish.

When the match was over, So gave some of his thoughts on the match on ChessTV:

While Arch Bishop fans may have wanted a chance to get revenge against the New York Marshalls, they will have to settle for a Quarterfinal against the Webster Windmills. Webster defeated the Marshalls, 9-7, as they denied New York a second comeback win. This sets up another intriguing Ray Robson-Wesley So showdown next week, as the two former college roommates will square off once again.

When asked about his biggest PRO Chess League rival, GM Ray Robson was pretty quick to answer:

With a trip to San Francisco on the line, this should be an extremely interesting match-up, especially given that Robson will also play Caruana and So in the US Chess Championships in the coming rounds.

Pacific Division: Chengdu Produces Highlight Of The Year, Minnesota Freezes Kangaroos

Though the matches in the Pacific may not have been as close as those earlier in the day, they certainly provided the most entertainment. The Dallas Destiny, a regular powerhouse team in the Pacific Division sought to do something it had never done before: beat the Chengdu Pandas. Having lost three times prior, Dallas would have to overcome the trend to have their shot at the live finals.

  • February 18, 2018: Chengdu 8.5 - Dallas 7.5
  • March 13, 2018: Chengdu 8 - Dallas 8, Chengdu wins on tiebreak
  • January 22, 2019: Chengdu 10 - Dallas 6

To make the match even harder, Dallas would have to play without their star, GM Jeffrey Xiong, who had to be left out of the line-up due to the concurrent US Chess Championships in Saint Louis. Despite this, Dallas got off to a surprising start when fourth board IM Cameron Wheeler upset GM Yu Yangyi, the 11th highest rated player in the world:

Unfortunately for Wheeler, fans may have missed his win as GM Zhao Jun easily produced the checkmate of the year against Dallas' GM Razvan Preotu, using two knights to weave a beautiful mating pattern:

With GM Conrad Holt starting 2/2, it seemed like Dallas had a shot at pulling the upset with the tiebreaker in hand. Unfortunately for the Destiny, 11 year old sensation Zhang Di (who had previously drawn GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov) started to build confidence with his second round draw against Preotu, and followed by winning his two remaining games to finish at 2.5/4.Dallas managed to hold Yu Yangyi to 0.5/4, but GM Wang Yue led the Pandas to victory with his perfect 4/4 score. His best game came against Holt in the third round:

The 9.5-6.5 loss sent the Dallas Destiny packing with a fourth consecutive loss against the Chengdu Pandas. Next week, the Pandas will take on the Minnesota Blizzard, who seemed fairly comfortable in their handling of the Australia Kangaroos.

In anticipation of next week, GM Fidel Corrales explained what makes Chengdu so strong after his team's Round of 16 win:

Eastern Division: Tbilisi Wins Nail Biter Amidst Playoff Picture Shake-Up

Was there any question? Both Tbilisi and Armenia flexed their muscles on Saturday, as both teams won convincingly to progress from the round of 16, setting up a much-anticipated quarterfinal between the two PRO Chess League giants. Entering the day, 75% of PRO Chess League Bracket Challenge submissions had picked Tbilisi to beat the Wizards, and 71% picked Armenia to eliminate the Movers.

Eastern Division action kicked off with the Gentlemen squaring off with Moscow, where IM Oleg Vastrukhin upset Tbilisi's top board, GM Baadur Jobava, to keep the match in range, 1.5-2.5:

When Nika Volkov beat GM Vlad Dobrov to close the second round, the Gentlemen took a 5-3 lead, and only needed three points to win the match. A clinical finish from GM Levan Pantsulaia dashed much of Moscow's comeback hopes, as Moscow would now need 3.5/4 to win the match:

With the start of the fourth round, the Wizards' top board GM Boris Savchenko may have given PRO Chess League fans the funniest non-chess moment on stream when he showed up late to his game against against Jobava:

Even with Moscow's Vastrukhin finishing with a strong 3/4 from fourth board, Moscow conceded defeats against both Jobava and Pantsulaia. The final result stood 9-7, as Tbilisi moved on with Pantsulaia's perfect 4/4 score.

With Armenia thrashing Mumbai and claiming a quarterfinals berth in just three rounds, GM Zaven Andriasian was caught dancing on camera mid-match:

Even with Mumbai closing the score late, fans will be treated to another edition of the PRO Chess League's newest rivalry between the Armenia Eagles and the Tbilisi Gentlemen.

Central Division: Favorites Progress As Baden-Baden, Norway Avoid Upsets

Baden-Baden and Norway both entered the Round of 16 as favorites in the Central Division, given that both teams had beaten their respective opponents in the regular season and had the draw odds tiebreaker. In the PRO Chess League Bracket Challenge, 75% of entries had Norway beating Cannes, and 61% picked Baden-Baden to progress.

Norway's match with Cannes got off to a quick start when GM Jon Ludvig Hammer out-calculated NM Kevin Bordi in a Scotch:

While Norway had their own star power on top board, Cannes' top tandem of GM Maxime Lagarde and GM Mattieu Cornette proved early that they could push the Gnomes around when they combined for 3.5/4 to open the match.

Norway's x-factor was on board 3, as IM Lars Oskar Hauge powered his way to 2.5/4, including his important last round win against IM Harutyun Barseghyan:

Norway was able to pull away late, as Cannes was not able to capitalize on strong 3/4 performances from both Lagarde and Cornette.

The match win means that Norway will take on Baden-Baden in the Quarterfinals. The match-up means that at least one team will make its debut in the live final in May, as both teams missed out in 2018.

Commentary for this week of #prochess was provided by Robert Hess, Alexandra Botez, Anna Rudolf, and Danny Rensch. All shows and archives are available at

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