Nakamura The Hero As Pacific Division Wins PRO Chess All Stars
Hikaru Nakamura was the last man standing for the Pacific Division.

Nakamura The Hero As Pacific Division Wins PRO Chess All Stars

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Pundits have often labeled the Pacific Division the toughest division in the PRO Chess League. In the first-ever PRO Chess League All Stars, they cemented that status with a thrilling multiple-overtime victory over the Atlantic Division.

Four All Stars were selected for each of the four divisions (Pacific, Atlantic, Central, Eastern). Three players received an invitation from the commissioner based on regular-season performance. A fourth player from each division was selected by a Twitter poll. If invitees were unable to participate, the Twitter poll runner-up received the invite.


Fed Name Team Division
Hrant Melkumyan Armenia Eagles Eastern
Zaven Andriasyan Armenia Eagles Eastern
Georg Meier Stockholm Snowballs Central
Anton Smirnov Australia Kangaroos Pacific
Alexandr Shimanov Webster Windmills Atlantic
Gawain Jones London Towers Central
Luka Lenic Ljubljana Turtles Central
Alexey Dreev San Diego Surfers Pacific
Abhijeet Gupta Delhi Dynamite Eastern
Maxime Vachier Lagrave Marseille Migraines Central
Alex Lenderman Montclair Sopranos Atlantic
Vidit Gujrathi Mumbai Movers Eastern
Hikaru Nakamura Seattle Sluggers Pacific
Eduardo Iturrizaga Miami Champions Atlantic
Le Quang Liem Webster Windmills Atlantic
Jeffery Xiong Dallas Destiny Pacific

All Star Rules

The All Stars used a unique two-stage format in which the first-stage was used to determine the ever-important seeding into stage two.

Stage 1:

Stage one is a round-robin where every player plays one game against everyone from the other three teams, for a total of 12 games. The time control will be three minutes with a one second increment.

Stage 2:

Survival: The scores from the four teams are added up and we begin a series of elimination matches.  The third- and fourth-place finishers from stage one play in the first survival match. Whichever team loses this match is out of the competition and is replaced by the second-place finisher from the previous stage.

The loser of this next match will then be replaced by the first-place finisher from stage one, and the winner of that match wins the all-star tournament.

The format of the matches is as follows: Board four from one team plays board four from the other and the loser of that game is eliminated and replaced by that team's board three. You win the match by beating the other team's board one. A draw eliminates both players, but if both teams are down to their final player, they will reverse colors and continue to play. The time control remains three minutes to start with a one second increment.

Round-Robin Stage

With the format set, it's on to the games!

Gawain Jones (@VerdeNotte) started out as the star for the Central Division, racking up 4.5/5. One lucky half-point he scored came against Abhijeet Gupta (abhijeetgupta1016) as the Indian grandmaster humorously blundered and allowed stalemate.

Georg Meier (@GeorgMeier) made an uncharacteristic tactical blunder against Eduardo Iturrizaga (@iturrizaga), resigning on the spot. Perhaps he could have played on with ...Rxc3 though?

Iturrizaga was himself defeated by some quick tactics against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (@LyonBeast).

PRO Chess League All Stars, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Vachier-Lagrave performed incredibly well, but his Central Division finished at the bottom in the round robin.

Vachier-Lagrave was eventually the top-scorer in the round-robin stage, scoring 8/12. He was equaled only by Hikaru Nakamura (@Hikaru). The third-best score was also achieved by a Pacific Division player, Jeffery Xiong (@jefferyx).  Even their third player, young Anton Smirnov (@AntonSmirnov ), scored 7/12, equal to the best scores from the Eastern Division (Gupta) and the Atlantic Division (Le Quang Liem (@liemle).

PRO Chess League All Stars, Hikaru Nakamura

When we left Jones, he had 4.5/5. Unfortunately, things then reversed course, and he lost ALL of his remaining games. One saw this humorous queen trap.

PRO Chess League All Stars, Gawain Jones

Jones games and Twitter feed are always worth following.

Elimination Stage: Eastern vs. Central

Zaven Andriasyan (@Zaven_ChessMood) was the hero of the regular season, winning the season for his Armenia Eagles. In the round robin, he scored only 3.5/12, but he thoroughly redeemed himself with three consecutive victories to open the elimination stage as his Eastern Division played the Central Division. He won the first three games, eliminating Luka Lenic (@ Michelangelo), Jones, and Meier.

Andriasyan was finally defeated by Vachier-Lagrave but only narrowly in a chaotic and exciting time-trouble conclusion.

As the last remaining Central player, Vachier-Lagrave needed three consecutive wins to secure victory, but he could only draw as Black against Vidit Gujarathi (viditchess). Thus, the Central Division was eliminated and the Eastern Division advanced to play the Atlantic Division.

Elimination Stage: Eastern vs. Atlantic

The critical game between the Eastern and Atlantic Divisions was the opening one between Andriasyan and Aleksandr Shimanov (@shimanovalex). Shimanov triumphed in a complicated game, securing his team a nice lead. They then leveraged the pressure to draw one game and win the last two as their opposition was forced to avoid drawing lines in favor of riskier play.

Elimination Stage: Atlantic vs. Pacific

The final match between the Pacific Division and the Atlantic Division (a largely American affair), initially went swimmingly for the Atlantic Division. Shimanov defeated Dreev when the latter accidentally trapped his own queen.

PRO Chess League All Stars, Alexsandr Shimanov

Shimanov struggled in the round robin but was a star in the elimination stage.

Shimanov then drew Smirnov, and Alex Lenderman (@AlexanderL) drew Xiong. That left only Nakamura to stand for the honor of the Pacific Division, and to win, he would have to defeat both Iturrizaga and Le Quang Liem. Despite a difficult position, Nakamura successfully bested Iturrizaga as Black when the latter could find no way to meet ...Qg6.

Nakamura now had to defeat Le Quang Liem, a former World Blitz Champion. This proved no easy achievement as the first three games were drawn with Le Quang Liem also applying considerable pressure at times. The most exciting game was probably the third which concluded in a humorous flurry of tactics and perpetual check.

Game four proved Le Quang Liem's undoing as he could not contain Nakamura's hanging pawns and a timely ...d3 created more problems than he could resolve.

Thus Nakamura carried the Pacific Division to victory, proving a true PRO Chess League hero. If you also think Nakamura is a "hero" you can use the new feature in iOS to follow him and get notified when he is playing in live chess.

For his efforts, Nakamura collected $800 in prize money. All of the other PRO Chess League All Stars collected a share of the $5000 prize fund based on their team's ultimate placement.

PRO Chess League All Star Prizes

The complete broadcast featuring Danny Rensch (@DanielRensch), Eric Hansen (@erichansen), and WAY too much discussion of happy endings and games that are "over" is available on!

Watch 2018 PRO Chess League All Star Games from Chess on

In two months, the PRO Chess League resumes with the PRO Chess League Qualifier! Gather your teams now to compete for entry into the 2019 season!

PRO Chess League Qualifier

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