8 Teams Qualify For 2019 PRO Chess League Season
Congratulations to the San Francisco Mechanics, Tbilisi Gentleman, Montreal Chessbrahs, Moscow Phoenix, Berlin Bears, Barcelona Raptors and New York Marshalls.

8 Teams Qualify For 2019 PRO Chess League Season

SamCopeland
NM SamCopeland
Nov 5, 2018, 1:35 PM |
17 | Chess.com News

Last year, two new teams (the Armenia Eagles and the Chengdu Pandas) made it to the finals weekend in San Francisco where the Eagles eventually defeated the Pandas in a thrilling multiple-overtime battle. This year, six new teams and two returning favorites qualified for the 2019 PRO Chess League. Will any of them be this year's champions?

This year's qualifiers:

  • San Francisco Mechanics (Sam Shankland, Steven Zierk, Yian Liou, Arun Sharma)
  • Moscow Wizards (Boris Savchenko, Vladimir Dobrov, Vladimir Seliverstov, Oleg Vastrukhin)
  • Tbilisi Gentleman (Baadur Jobava, Levan Pantsulaia, Luka Paichadze, Nika Volkov)
  • Montreal Chessbrahs (Ivan Saric, Robin van Kampen, Eric Hansen, Brandon Eshleman)
  • Moscow Phoenix (Pavel Ponkratov, Vladimir Zakhartsov, Saveliy Golubov, Zaur Tekeyev)
  • Berlin Bears (David Baramidze, Niclas Huschenbeth, Steve Berger, Bernd Hoy)
  • Barcelona Raptors (Francisco Vallejo Pons, Alvar Alonso Rosell, Alejandro Alvarado Diaz, José Antonio herrera Reyes)
  • New York Marshalls (Wojciech Moranda, Sergei Azarov, Tamaz Gelashvili, Grant Xu)

Stage One Qualifiers

The PRO Chess League Qualifier was a grueling event, lasting more than six hours and divided into two stages. Stage one divided the 28 teams into two geographic groups who each played a 14-team round robin. Each match used a 3/2 time control with board one always playing board one, board two always playing board two, and so on.

The top two teams by score in each group immediately qualified to the 2019 PRO Chess League season. Here are the final results of stage one with all the teams and their scores. The four teams that qualified directly from stage one are highlighted. 

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San Francisco Mechanics

The San Francisco Mechanics represent the Mechanics Institute chess club, the oldest in the U.S., dating back to the 1850s. The Mechanics played in the first season of the PRO Chess League, but they did not qualify for the 2018 season.

Each of the San Francisco Mechanics performed well, but the biggest plus score was notched by reigning U.S. champion Sam Shankland, who scored an impressive 10/13. One of his finest wins came in an opposite-color bishop endgame against Francisco Vallejo Pons. He demonstrated the attacking prowess of these bishops.

Team manager and long-time PRO Chess League commentator IM David Pruess provided commentary on the San Francisco Mechanics romp.

Watch IM dpruess comments as SF Mechanics try to qualify for the 2019 PRO Chess League from dpruess on www.twitch.tv

Moscow Wizards

We've long been asked why we don't have a Moscow team in the PRO Chess League. Well, as of this year we have two. The first to qualify were the Moscow Wizards. Captained by the Russian team coach and streamer GM Vlad Dobrov, they achieved convincing plus scores on all boards, showing themselves to be a solid team that will be difficult to defeat.

Dobrov streamed the event on his Twitch channel.

Watch Pro Chess League 2018 - Qualification by Moscow Wizard! from vladchess on www.twitch.tv

Tbilisi Gentlemen

The star of the Tbilisi Gentlemen and one of Georgia's most iconic players, Baadur Jobava, scored acceptably on board one, but it was on the lower-three boards that the Gentlemen really demonstrated their strength. Luka Paichadze scored an undefeated 10/13 on board three for the Gentlemen. He put late-game pressure on his opponents and often used time pressure to his advantage. Twice he managed to swap the queens and enter a winning queen endgame against low-on-time opponents.

Montreal Chessbrahs

The relegation of the Montreal Chessbrahs last year was a traumatic event for many fans. In the 2017, they had gone all the way to the semifinals and played an amazing multiple-overtime match against the season winners, the Saint Louis Arch Bishops. Last year, they just couldn't seem to put a good series of games together, and they kept losing close matches.

This year, they appear thoroughly resurgent. The unquestioned star of the event was father Chessbrah himself, Eric Hansen, who scored 13/13 playing on board three. He won one of the most exciting games in the event with the dashing ...h5! in the following game.

The 1800 (!) FIDE-rated Brandon Eshleman scored a very respectable 4.5 and gave his team flexibility on the top three boards.

Aman Hambleton streamed their qualifying run on Twitch.tv/chessbrah.

Watch after hours from chessbrah on www.twitch.tv

Stage Two Qualifiers

Most teams were not able to clinch a qualification spot with a top-two finish, but many still had hope. The next three best-scoring teams in each group (total of six teams) by score were seeded into stage two directly. One more team from each group was able to earn a spot by winning a Twitter poll. Teams 6-8 in each group were seeded into the Twitter poll. The Riga Magicians and the London Towers were the eventual Twitter poll winners.

Once the four teams in each group were selected, the best-scoring team in each division was allowed to pick its opponent from its group. The Moscow Phoenix selected the Riga Magicians while the New York Marshalls selected the Atlanta Kings. The Berlin Bears were then matched against the Bergamo Gladiators and the Barcelona Raptors against the London Towers.

Each team then played a regular PRO Chess League match (all players play all opposing players) against the opposition with an accelerated time control of 7/2. Perhaps unsurprisingly, all of the better performing teams from stage one won their matches and secured spots in the 2019 PRO Chess League regular season.

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Moscow Phoenix

The Moscow Phoenix was the first to advance as it bested the Riga Magicians. With equal to plus scores from all players in their lineup, the Phoenix demonstrated a solid roster.

Its third board, IM Saveliy Golubov, is nearing the grandmaster rank and has shown himself to be a promising junior. He is still just 17 years old. In a critical game, he defeated GM Toms Kantans from the Magicians.

Berlin Bears

The Berlin Bears demonstrated one of the best social media games leading up to the qualifier. Their board two, GM Niclas Huschenbeth, got into the mood with a frigid warm-up. 😰

Huschenbeth's brisk warm-up may have helped him build the fortitude necessary to withstand the following attack from Lorenzo Lodici.

Barcelona Raptors

The Barcelona Raptors fielded 2700+ Francisco Vallejo Pons on board one, but they may have owed a greater percentage of their success to the streamer FM Jose Herrera, who scored eight points in stage one while streaming. He was...happy. 

You can see Herrera's stream on Twitch.tv/stewiiegriffin.

Watch [ES] ¡PRO CHESS LEAGUE QUALIFIER! // !youtube !fide !chess.com !damita (Contador de damas olvidadas) from StewiieGriffin on www.twitch.tv

New York Marshalls

The New York Marshalls are likely the team with the greatest legacy to live up to in the PRO Chess League. The Marshall Chess Club was founded in 1915 by the great Frank Marshall, and it has hosted and been the formative nexus for many of the finest chess players in the world— Bobby Fischer foremost.

The Marshalls secured their spot in the 2019 PRO Chess League by defeating the Atlanta Kings. In a critical game, GM Sergei Azarov played one of the prettiest PRO Chess League combinations of the day to defeat GM Ben Finegold.

IM Levy Rozman didn't play for the team in the qualifier, but he did stream the match live from the Marshall Chess Club on Twitch.tv/gothamchess.

Watch @GothamChess; IM Levy Rozman from GothamChess on www.twitch.tv

Sad Farewells

Of 28 hopeful teams competing in the qualifier, only eight teams could grab slots in the regular season. That meant 20 very worthy teams will have to wait until next year to attempt to again claim a regular-season berth.

It's not possible to mention all the teams and their qualifier stories here, but we hope to see some of the players that impressed in the qualifier join the league as free agents. We are sure that players like Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Warsaw Fighers), Vladislav Artemiev and Gata Kamsky (Kazan Archers), Ruslan Ponomariov (Granada Red Noses), Niko Sedlak (Bordeaux Sharks), Lorenzo Lodici (Bergamo Gladiators) and many more will be much courted by sharp-eyed team managers.

It was discovered after the event that a scoring error occurred (caught by neither the PRO Chess League event-day staff nor any teams competing in the qualifier) that kept Chicago from moving on to the second round of play. The PRO Chess League has apologized to Chicago for this error and is looking to make changes in both the format and event-day logistics to ensure that such issues are avoided in the future.

Twitch Broadcast

The entire broadcast featuring commentary from GM Robert Hess and IM Anna Rudolf is available now on Twitch.tv/chess!

Watch Pro Chess League 2019 Qualifier from Chess on www.twitch.tv

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