Gnomes Miss Playoffs, Chessbrahs Relegated In PRO Chess Week 9
The 2018 PRO Chess League playoff bracket is set.

Gnomes Miss Playoffs, Chessbrahs Relegated In PRO Chess Week 9

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The final round of the PRO Chess League regular season was a heartbreaker for many as several beloved teams either missed the playoffs or were relegated. Teams painfully falling short included Magnus Carlsen's Norway Gnomes, who held their fate in their own hands and held a big lead in the final minutes, and the San Jose Hackers, who needed just one more final round win from GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

More painful was last-minute nail-biting relegations of the Reykjavik Puffins and the Montreal Chessbrahs, two teams whose streaming efforts have earned many fans.

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PRO Chess League Round Nine Highlights: Who's Relegated?
2018 PRO Chess League Final Standings

Teams in green are in the playoffs. Teams in red have been relegated and must re-qualify for the 2019 season in the qualification tournament.

The Riga Magicians, Oslo Trolls, Reykjavik Puffins, London Towers, Montreal Chessbrahs, Buenos Aires Krakens, Rio Grande Ospreys, and Las Vegas Desert Rats have all been relegated. Each will have the option to re-qualify in a tournament in the fall.

Of these, the most pedigreed is the Montreal Chessbrahs who went all the way to the semifinals last year, narrowly losing a multi-overtime match against the Saint Louis Arch Bishops that enthralled fans. Many commented that it seemed like a finals.

The Chessbrahs were plagued this season by general undeperformance and the loss of last year's stars, GMs Fabiano Caruana and Li Chao, both of whom played for other teams this season. Perhaps some of that was due to time zone differences as GMs Hou Yifan, Robin Van Kampen, and Jorden Van Foreest played in the wee hours of the day.

While the Chessbrahs were a half-point shy against the Webster Windmills, GM Eric Hansen did win a beautiful game against GM Le Quang Liem.

PRO Chess League Round Nine Highlights: Who's Out Of The Playoffs?

The Norway Gnomes, Volga Stormbringers, Amsterdam Mosquitoes, Montclair Sopranos, Miami Champions, San Jose Hackers, and Seattle Sluggers missed the playoffs this year. While the absence of the Mamedyarov-led Hackers, and the Nakamura-led Sluggers are disappointments to chess fans to be sure, the omission of the world champion's Gnomes is shocking.

The Gnomes went all the way to the finals in last years PRO Chess League, losing only to the Saint Louis Arch Bishops. This season was packed with many great moments, including Magnus Carlsen streaming for the first time ever, a Super Saturday in which Carlsen and GM Nils Grandelius scored a combined 15/16 points on boards one and two, and their manager GM Jon Ludvig Hammer emotionally commenting on their play such as in this clip:

The PRO Chess League has been honored to have all of these teams compete in the 2018 season, and we look forward to welcoming them back for the 2019 season. For a detailed breakdown of the upcoming playoff bracket, watch for our preview next week.

Just learning about the PRO Chess League? Visit the site and read the rules.

Eastern Division

Central Division

Atlantic Division

Pacific Division

Reports compiled by Sam Copeland, Sam Thompson, and Colin Stapczynski.

Volga Stormbringers Shock Delhi Dynamite, Escape Relegation

The Volga Stormbringers shocked the Delhi Dynamite today with a match score 9-7 and escaped the greedy jaws of relegation; a consolation prize for sure, but consolation nonetheless!

Coming into today's match, Delhi had already safely qualified for the playoffs, tied for first in the Eastern Division. At the same time, Volga found themselves in dire straights. With no hope of playoff qualification, their only fight was to escape relegation with a win or a draw, and hope that the performance of higher seeds Norway and Riga turned in their favor.

With a break-even final score, GM Dmitry Andreikin has had better days, but his round four game against GM Abhijeet Gupta was a pleasure to watch.

2018 PRO Chess League | Week 9 | Volga Stormbringers vs Delhi Dynamite

Dynamite Stormbringers Dmitry Andreikin Mikhail Demidov Azat Sharafiev Aleksey Ivlev 9
Abhijeet Gupta 2.5
Srinath Narayanan 2.5
Tania Sachdev 1.5
Hemant Sharma 0.5
7 2 2.5 2.5 2

Armenia Eagles Become Eastern Division Champions, Take Down Mumbai Movers

The Armenia Eagles are champions. Today they secured bragging rights as the top seed in the Eastern Division heading into the playoffs after taking down the Mumbai Movers.

Coming into today's match, both teams had already guaranteed a playoff appearance. Today it was all about the glory (and playoff seeding). Armenia's team performance was quite balanced with quality scores coming from board-three GM Karen Grigoryan and board-four CM Artak Manukyan.

Check out this absolutely wild round one battle between GM Samvel Ter-Sahakyan and IM Harshit Raja. A poisoned pawn Sicilian goes off the rails, which may not be that big of a surprise!  

2018 PRO Chess League | Week 9 | Armenia Eagles vs Mumbai Movers

Movers Eagles Zaven Andriasyan Samvel Ter-Sahakyan Karen Grigoryan Artak Manukyan 10
Vidit Gujrathi 3
Swapnil Dhopade 1
Harshit Raja 0.5
Eesha Karavade 1.5
6 2.5 2 3 2.5

Riga Magicians Fall To Oslo Trolls, Join In Relegation

Despite a last minute substitution (and half-point penalty) by Oslo, the Riga Magicians fell to the Oslo Trolls 10-5.5, joining Oslo in the Eastern Division cellar. That means relegation. Maybe it was suiting that Oslo, already having accepted their relegated fate, doomed Riga to the same result.

Today the Magicians found themselves in a must-win scenario. Oddly, they actually had a not-so-clear path to the playoff qualification. It was a tortured route and required all the coins to flip in their favor: (1) Riga must win, (2) Norway must beat Estonia, (3) Riga must beat Estonia in a tiebreak. Tough odds!

In round one, the end was already nigh; Oslo swept Riga 3.5-0.5. Board three for Oslo, IM Sebastian Mihajlov, finished with a fine score of 3.5/4 and played several fantastic games. Here's one against WIM Anna Kantane in round three.

2018 PRO Chess League | Week 9 | Riga Magicians vs Oslo Trolls

Trolls Magicians Vojtech Plat Toms Kantans Vojtech Zwardon Anna Kantane 5.5
Ori Kobo 3
Frode Urkedal 3.5
Sebastian Mihajlov 3.5
Johannes Haug 0.5
10* 1 2 1 1.5

Estonia Horses Secure Playoffs Spot, Drawing Despondent Norway Gnomes After Last Round Comeback

The Estonia Horses secured a spot in the playoffs today after drawing GM Magnus Carlsen and the Norway Gnomes after a dramatic last-round comeback. Today the fate of both teams hung in the balance. Only a match win for Norway would secure playoff qualification while Estonia had only to avoid losing. Surely Carlsen would go 4/4 and lead his team to victory? Well, 3.5/4 isn't shabby. In hindsight, Carlsen's round three draw (1...c6, 2...Na6) must be bugging him.

The match started off with a bang when Carlsen's opponent, CM Sander Kukk, cheekily played 1. b3 and Carlsen replied 1...a5!

Probably Carlsen's best game came in round two against GM Jaan Ehlvest. Taking advantage of a marauding dark-squared bishop, he proved his chess understanding is both lightning fast and accurate.

This game is full of brilliant ideas by the World Champion; among them 19.e5! and 22.Ndxb5! cannot be missed.

The final round was a nightmare for Norway, scoring only 1.5/4. In the final moments, Norway's best chance to win the match came down to GM Borki Predojevic who misplayed a winning position in time pressure. In the end, a forced win downgraded to an opposite-colored-bishop draw.

As the seconds ticked down, one more game remained, and with it, Norway's last hope.

2018 PRO Chess League | Week 9 | Norway Gnomes vs Estonia Horses

Horses Gnomes Magnus Carlsen Nils Grandelius Borki Predojevic Elham Abdrlauf 8
Avital Boruchovsky 1
Ottomar Ladva 3
Jaan Ehlvest 2
Sander Kukk 2
8 3.5 2.5 2 0

London Lions Claw Through Ljubljana Turtles, Avoid Relegation

The London Lions finished the 2018 PRO Chess League strong, holding a match against the Ljubljana Turtles despite a fierce last-round comeback from the Turtles. The match draw was key for the Lions. Without it, they faced relegation, but with it, they held on to their league spot.

The Lions struggled a bit this season, but a huge bright spot was their board four, FM Marcus Harvey, who over-performed once again with 3/4 and this fine win.

With talented players like Harvey, the Lions can look forward to the 2019 season with confidence. The Lions were often out-rated, but bested their rating expectations. With some strong free agent additions, they could easily be dangerous division contenders.

2018 PRO Chess League | Round 9 | London Lions vs Ljubljana Turtles

Lions Turtles Jure Borisek Jure Skoberne Matej Sebenik Jernej Skuhala 8
Jean-Pierre Le Roux 2.5
Jean-Noel Riff 1.5
Andrew P Horton 1
Marcus R Harvey 3
8 2.5 2 3 0.5

Amsterdam Mosquitoes Relegate Reykjavik Puffins

The Reykjavik Puffins, one of the league's fan favorites, a team with lots of camaraderie and spirit, were relegated by the Amsterdam Mosquitoes. The Puffins will have a chance to qualify again in the 2019 qualifier, but for now the league bids them a sad adieu.

For the Mosquitoes, the 2018 season finished with another demonstration of what this team is capable of. They scored an impressive 11.5 points, reaching a game point total that was the second highest in the division this season. When their best lineups were playing, the Mosquitoes seemed one of the best teams in the division. Unfortunately, a few weeks in which the Mosquitoes were not able to field their best lineups cost them a chance at the playoffs this season.

The Mosquitoes scored 3.5/4 from both boards two and three in this match. Here is one of those great wins from GM Jan Smeets.

2018 PRO Chess League | Round 9 | Amsterdam Mosquitoes vs Reykjavik Puffins

Mosquitoes Puffins Helgi Olafsson Jon Viktor Gunnarsson Helgi Ass Gretarsson David Kjartansson 4.5
Loek van Wely 3
Jan Smeets 3.5
Miguoel Admiraal 3.5
Rob Duijn 1.5
11.5 1 1.5 1.5 0.5

Vachier-Lagrave Forces Beautiful Mate-In-Six Vs London Towers

With the Marseille Migraines locked into a playoff spot and the London Towers locked into relegation, this was a match primarily fought for glory. In this battle, the Migraines came out ahead despite the Towers holding GM Yannick Gozzoli (4/4 last week) to only a point.

The undoubted match highlight was this final-round finish by GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave against GM Gawain Jones. Instead of plodding through a winning endgame, Vachier-Lagrave sacked one of his two rooks for a beautiful mate in six!

2018 PRO Chess League | Round 9 | London Towers vs Marseille Migraines

Towers Migraines Maxime Vachier-Lagrave Etienne Bacrot Yannick Gozzoli Marc Andria Maurizzi 9.5
Gawain Jones 2.5
Roman Yanchenko 2
Peter Roberson 1
Thomas Rendle 1
6.5 3.5 3 1 2

Cannes Blockbusters Flop Vs Stockholm Snowballs

The Stockholm Snowballs finished the regular season at the top of the Central Division standings. Their excellent play week in and week out has been truly impressive, and they look like a good pick to again make the final four as they did last year.

Their opponents, the Cannes Blockbusters, also made the playoffs but fielded a week lineup this week. Here is one of the Snowballs many wins from their solid board one, GM Georg Meier.

2018 PRO Chess League | Round 9 | Cannes Blockbusters vs Stockholm Snowballs

Blockbusters Snowballs Georg Meier Evgenij Agrest Kirill Alekseenko Markus Orndahl 11.5
Fabien Libiszewski 2.5
Barseghyan Harutyun 1
Loic Travadon 0
Kevin Bordi 1
4.5 3 4 3 1.5

Montclair Sopranos Sublimate Minnesota Blizzard

The Montclair Sopranos made incredibly short work of the Minnesota Blizzard, one of 2018's best-performing teams. In the 12 games against the Blizzard's boards two, three, and four, the Sopranos scored an incredible 10/12.

Ultimately though, this result had little impact on each team's fate as the Blizzard retain their playoff spot, and the Sopranos could not make the playoffs, though they did avoid relegation.

Here is one exciting game from the match as two young American IM's faced off. Nico Checa sacked a piece and came out ahead of Daniel Gurevich.

2018 PRO Chess League | Round 9 | Montclair Sopranos vs Minnesota Blizzard

Sopranos Blizzard Mauricio Flores Andrew Tang Daniel Gurevich Sean Nagle 4.5
Evgeny Postny 3.5
Aleksandr Lenderman 3
Nicolas Checa 3.5
Thomas Bartell 1.5
11.5 2.5 1.5 0 0.5

Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers Draw The Miami Champions

The Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers and Miami Champions drew their match today with an 8-8 score. Going into this match the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers were tied for first place in the Central division with the Webster Windmills and were firmly locked into the playoffs. With this draw, the Pawngrabbers move to 7/9 on the season and look forward to the playoffs.

The Miami Champions needed to win or draw to avoid relegation. Miami pulled ahead of the Montreal ChessBrahs in the standings to secure the sixth place spot in the Central division. This means that they will not need to re-qualify for the 2019 PRO Chess League season.

GM Eduardo Iturrizaga has been a strong force for Miami all season. He put up a 3.5/4 performance tonight which led Miami to a much-needed draw. Here is a nice endgame win by GM Eduardo Iturrizaga versus IM Atulya Shetty. After an unusual opening where Iturizzaga played b6, c6 and d6 in succession, an interested middle game position ensued. Once the smoke cleared, Iturrizaga’s passed b-pawn was too powerful.

2018 PRO Chess League | Round 9 | Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers vs Miami Champions

Champions Pawngrabbers Atulya Shetty Mika Brattain Mark Heimann Safal Bora 8
Eduardo Iturrizaga 3.5
Yuniesky Quesada 3
Julio Becerra Rivero 1.5
Nicholas Rosenthal 0
8 2 2 3 1

Buenos Aires Krakens Draw Saint Louis Arch Bishops

The Buenos Aires Krakens played strong chess against one of the most stacked PRO Chess League teams today, but a solid draw against the Saint Louis Arch Bishops was not enough for them to avoid relegation.

A couple of interesting rook mates happened in this match. Here is one that stood out: a funny checkmate by GM Francisco Rambaldi against IM Mario Villanueva.

2018 PRO Chess League | Round 9 | Saint Louis Arch Bishops vs Buenos Aires Krakens

Krakens Arch Bishops Vladimir Fedoseev Francesco Rambaldi Alejandro Ramirez Julian Proleiko 8
Federico Perez Ponsa 2
Andres Carlos Obregon 3
Mario Villanueva 1.5
Maximiliano Perez 1.5
8 2.5 2.5 2.5 0.5

Webster Windmills Win The Atlantic Division

The Webster Windmills defeated the Montreal ChessBrahs by a 8.5-7.5 score. Going into this match the Webster Windmills were tied for first place in the Central division with the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers. With this match win they move to 7.5/9 on the season and clinch the division!

The Montreal ChessBrahs were already out of the playoff picture for this season, but they were playing for sixth place in the division in order to avoid relegation. Unfortunately they will need to re-qualify for the 2019 season.

GM Illia Nyzhnyk had a brilliant 3.5/4 performance to lead the Webster Windmills to victory in this match. Here is a beautiful attacking game from GM Ilya Nyzhnyk over GM Ivan Saric. The attack starts on the dark squares (b2 being the main target), then the second rank is secured by two black rooks, and it is all over!

2018 PRO Chess League | Round 9 | Webster Windmills vs Montreal ChessBrahs

Windmills Chessbrahs Ivan Saric Eric Hansen Aman Hambleton Maroun Tomb 7.5
Le Quang Liem 3
Tamas Banusz 1.5
Illia Nyzhnyk 3.5
Thalia Cervantes 0.5
8.5 2 3 1.5 1

Dallas Destiny Miss Perfect Score vs Las Vegas Desert Rats

The only question in the Dallas Destiny vs Las Vegas Desert Rats match was if the Destiny would achieve a perfect score. The answer proved to be "no" as they missed by one, winning 15-1.

The Desert Rats have had a tough season and could not have avoided relegation even with a match win.

Here's one of Dallas' best wins, a quick opposite-side castling attack by IM Luke Harmon-Velloti against GM Melik Khachiyan.

2018 PRO Chess League | Round 9 | Las Vegas Desert Rats vs Dallas Destiny

Desert Rats Destiny Julio Sadorra Luke Harmon-Vellotti Zurab Javakhadze Titas Stremavicius 15
Melikset Khachiyan 0
Andrey Ostrovskiy 1
Eugene Yanayt 0
Mike Zaloznyy 0
0.5* 4 4 4 3

San Diego Surfers Win Pacific Division

The San Diego Surfers have been excellent all-season long and with another match win against the San Jose Hackers, they won the Pacific Division by a point over the competition.

For many, the match was a painful one as though the Surfers prospects were unchanged by their win, they dealt a dagger blow to the San Jose Hackers who were eliminated from the playoffs. A draw would have kept them in it, but this loss by GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the final round against GM Alexey Dreev sealed their fate. A win would have put them in the playoffs.

2018 PRO Chess League | Round 9 | San Diego Surfers vs San Jose Hackers

Surfers Hackers Shakhriyar Mamedyarov Daniel Naroditsky Zviad Izoria Vinesh Ravuri 7
Alexey Dreev 3
Michael Brown 1.5
Keaton Kiewra 2
Joshua Sheng 2.5
9 2.5 2 2.5 0

Rio Grande Ospreys Defeat Australia Kangaroos, Can't Avoid Relegation

The Rio Grande Ospreys and the Australia Kangaroos each bring strong and balanced teams to their matches. In the final week of the PRO Chess League, the Ospreys were triumphant, but that wasn't enough for them to avoid relegation as the Seattle Sluggers also won their match.

Meanwhile despite losing, the Kangaroos are still playoff bound as the fourth seed in the Pacific Division.

Here's one exciting game from the match, won by GM Sarana against GM Hevia.

2018 PRO Chess League | Round 9 | Rio Grande Ospreys vs Australia Kangaroos

Ospreys Kangaroos Alexey Sarana Anton Smirnov Temur Kuybokarov Junta Ikeda 7.5
Oleksandr Bortnyk 2
Bartlomiej Macieja 2.5
Carlos Hevia 2.5
Joshua Ruiz 1.5
8.5 2 3 2 0.5

Seattle Sluggers Hand Chengdu Pandas Second Defeat

The Seattle Sluggers missed the playoffs this year, but with an impressive final-round lineup, they did hand the Chengdu Pandas their second defeat of the season.

Hikaru Nakamura led the way for the Sluggers, scoring 3.5/4, and streamed commentary for his entire match. Don't miss his lightning-fast thinking in action!

Watch PRO Chess League Qualifier! from GMHikaru on

2018 PRO Chess League | Round 9 | Seattle Sluggers vs Chengdu Pandas

Sluggers Pandas Yu Yangyi Bai Jinshi Xu Xiangyu Chu Ruotong 7
Hikaru Nakamura 3.5
Gabriel Sargissian 3
Giorgi Margvelashvili 1.5
Megan Lee 1
9 2.5 2 2.5 0
NM Sam Copeland

I'm the VP of Chess and Community for I earned the National Master title in 2012, and in 2014, I returned to my home state of South Carolina to start Strategery: Chess and Games. In late 2014, I began working for and haven't looked back since.

You can find my personal content on Twitch , Twitter , and YouTube where I further indulge my love of chess.

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