Mamedyarov Beats So; Carlsen's Gnomes Eke Into PRO Playoffs

Mamedyarov Beats So; Carlsen's Gnomes Eke Into PRO Playoffs

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Wesley So lost his first game (excluding blitz) since his defeat by Carlsen in Bilbao last summer. In a game-of-the-week candidate, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov tapped into the game's chaos more efficiently than Wesley So, finally overmatching So's queen with a rook and minor pieces in the endgame.

So's classical streak remains unbroken at 56 games without defeat, and it is perhaps even more impressive that he managed to get through almost the entirety of his regular season in a rapid tournament without defeat, succumbing only in his final game.

So's defeat had little impact on the match as both the involved teams, the St Louis Arch Bishops and the San Jose Hackers, had secured entry into the playoffs, but for many teams, success yesterday was essential. In the words of "Law and Order," these are their stories.

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Eastern Division Qualifiers

Entering the day, the Delhi Dynamite, Budapest Gambit, and Gorky Stormbringers had all earned spots in the playoffs.

Campaigning for entry were these teams: the Norway Gnomes vs the Ljubljana Direwolves, the Mumbai Movers vs the Gorky Stormbringers (already qualified), and the Belgrade Sparrows vs the Riga Magicians.

The Norway Gnomes and the Ljubljana Direwolves naturally drew much attention as the world champion struggled to assist his team. The Gnomes have not been the powerhouse that many thought they would be, but they are undoubtedly stronger with Carlsen in the lineup. Last week, they defeated the division-leading Delhi Dynamite, and their tiebreaks were the best in their division. Still their frustrations had induced stoicism in their team manager, GM Jon Ludwig Hammer.

Also, he lost a tough game to Adams in the Sharjah Grand Prix  Hopefully this cheers him up

Carlsen was in peak form in the first three games. All three of his initial wins were well worth study. Here is the second.

When Carlsen is in the lineup, the rest of the team must sport a lower rating to stay under the cap. Boards three and four, Sebastian Mihajlov and Bertil Svendsen were excellent, scoring 2/4 each, but board two, IM Johan Salomon only scored 0.5/4. In the final game, Carlsen got into into trouble against GM Luka Lenic, and the Gnomes were on the brink of defeat.

Stout resistance saved the game and drew the match, enough to qualify the tiebreak-rich Gnomes for the playoffs.

For the Ljubljana Direwolves, the result was disheartening. They miss out on the playoffs by one point on tiebreaks. They were one of the most fun teams in the league, sporting Ninja Turtles handles and making regular videos.

The other qualifiers were the Mumbai Movers who drew their match against the Gorky Stormbringers, and the Riga Magicians who were awarded match victory against the Belgrade Sparrows in light of a fair-play violation.

Central Division Qualifiers

The straits were narrower in the Central Division as four teams had secured playoff spots: the Marseille Migraines, Stockholm Snowballs, Amsterdam Mosquitoes, and Cannes Blockbusters. Two matches were capable of elevating all four of the participating teams into the playoffs. The Hamburg Swashbucklers played the London Lions while the London Towers played Apeldoorn Apes.

In the end, both London teams snagged slots though there were turbulent moments.

For example, it wasn't enough for his team, but GM "Roely" Pruijssers played a beautiful finish against the London Towers' GM Keith Arkell.

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The London Lions IM Justin Tan made his team very happy as he grabbed a point from a losing position with a move-of-the-week candidate.

Meanwhile the Marseille Migraines put their foot down and defeated the Amsterdam Mosquitoes to claim the division win and that key first-round bye. The Mosquitoes did have the satisfaction of watching their board one Loek Van Wely topple the elite Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

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Atlantic Division Qualifiers

The Montreal ChessBrahs, Buenos Aires Krakens, Philadelphia Inventors, and Toronto Dragons were the happy playoff-secure teams in the Atlantic Division. Those two remaining slots could be claimed by the Montclair Sopranos vs the Patagonia Penguins or the Miami Champions vs the New Jersey Knockouts.

The Sopranos wasted no time proving they deserved one of those spots. They annihilated the Patagonia Penguins who were already handicapped by an ill player and the lack of any grandmasters in this week's lineup.

The Champions and the Knockouts fought to a bitter 8-8 standstill, which wasn't quite enough for the New Jersey Knockouts. The Miami Champions are thus through to the playoffs where they hope to regain Hikaru Nakamura and make a deep run.

This victory over the Knockouts leading player was critical.

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The Montreal ChessBrahs' match with the Philadelphia Inventors could easily have gotten out of hand as the ChessBrahs' board four, Raven Sturt, won a magnificent game against the Inventors' board one, GM Andriy Vovk.

The Inventors proved, as they have all season, that they are a deep team, getting many points from their lower boards. They kept it close, but eventually succumbed 8.5-7.5, granting the ChessBrahs that coveted bye.

The Atlanta Kings sadly missed the playoff boat, but they did leave us with another fond memory.

Pacific Division Qualifiers

A curious story unfolded in the Pacific Division. All playoff slots had been claimed entering this final week. Only the seeding was in dispute, but in such a strong division, those byes could not be more valuable. Whichever team eventually emerges from the scrum in the Pacific Division is sure to be a favorite in the championship weekend. In the interdivisional week, 11 out of 12 Pacific teams won their matches!

Claiming the top spot were the St Louis Arch Bishops who managed a strong 10-6 win over the San Jose Hackers. In round two, GM Ben Finegold won a thrilling game against GM Shakhriyar Mamedarov, who had to wake at 6:30 a.m. in Sharjah to make the match.

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Then in round three, Wesley So won an anthology-worthy bishop endgame against the frustrated GM Cristian Chirila.

With everything going their way, the bumpy landing in round four was a bit surprising for the Arch Bishops. Mamedyarov rebounded from his defeat with a savory victory over Wesley So. As has been mentioned, this is So's first loss since last summer.

Game And Move Of The Week Polls

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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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