PRO Chess League: 2020 Season Set To Start On Monday
The 2020 PRO Chess League kicks off with the Western Division featuring an epic contest between the Saint Louis Arch Bishops and New York Marshalls.

PRO Chess League: 2020 Season Set To Start On Monday

| 24 | News

It's been a long off-season for PRO Chess League fans. Since the Saint Louis Arch Bishops secured their second league title 244 days ago in San Francisco, the league has brought on new improvements to achieve a more competitive season. Just 48 days ago, fans witnessed the excitement that the new format brings when the Croatia Bulldogs won the qualifier in dramatic fashion to secure their place in the PRO Chess League.

Just two days before the start of the PRO Chess League season, all teams released their lineups in preparation for opening week. With so many exciting matches to look forward to, this primer focuses on the most important matches this week.

Western Division Week 1 PRO Chess League 2020
The Western Division features a super-GM pairing of the Saint Louis Arch Bishops and New York Marshalls.

1. Saint Louis Arch Bishops vs. New York Marshalls (Monday, Jan. 6, 1:15 p.m. PST)

Saint Louis became the first "double champion" when it won both the PRO Chess League and the Summer Series last August, but 2020 may prove to be the Arch Bishops' most impressive campaign yet. Joining Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So are Leinier Dominguez and Le Quang Liem for a 2764-average rating. While the Arch Bishops are accustomed to being in the spotlight, the New York Marshalls look to join them as their most recent signing, Hikaru Nakamura, leads a lineup of 2600+ grandmasters. 

Nakamura PRO Chess League
New York made big splashes this summer by signing both Hikaru Nakamura and Vladimir Fedoseev.

Expect this match to be close, as New York's depth features veteran PRO Chess League stalwarts in Sam Sevian and Wojciech Moranda. Sevian was a key piece of the San Diego Surfers' success in 2017, and Moranda led the Marshalls to the playoffs in their inaugural season.

2. Canada Chessbrahs vs. California Unicorns (Monday, Jan. 6, 11 a.m. PST)

Being a fan-favorite, the Chessbrahs need no introduction. With a star-studded recruiting class put together by GM Eric Hansen, this year's team is a serious title contender. Hansen, traditionally a top board for the Chessbrahs, will sit quite comfortably on fourth board, as Alexander GrischukAlireza Firouzja, and Ivan Saric headline the Chessbrahs' lineup. In turn, California brings Alexey Sarana and Anton Smirnov from Australia to play with local grandmasters Daniel Naroditsky and Steven Zierk.

Grischuk PRO Chess League
Grischuk is set to make his PRO Chess League debut on Monday against the California Unicorns.

The California Unicorns have the potential to be a dark horse, but this week one test will tell a lot about their resilience and fighting spirit. If Sarana and Smirnov can match their production from last year, an opening-week upset is very possible—watch out.

Eastern Division Week 1 PRO Chess League
Russia vs. China in the season's opening week may shape the playoff race early in the Eastern Division.

3. China Pandas vs. Russia Wizards (Wednesday, Jan. 8, 6 a.m. PST)

The Pandas are determined to clinch their first-ever PRO Chess League title. China brings Wei Yi to the league for the first time, as he leads a lineup featuring Jinshi Bai, Wen Yang and Xu Xiangyu. While the Pandas are a favorite to win the division, both India and Russia will prove to be significant hurdles en route to an Eastern Division title.

Russia is an underdog this match, but the Wizards are led by Andrey Esipenko. The seventeen-year-old is best known for his crushing victory in the 2017 World Rapid Championship against world championship challenger Sergey Karjakin:

Zhamsaran Tsydypov, who earned his grandmaster title earlier this summer, takes second board behind Esipenko with Mikhail Demidov and Pavel Anisimov rounding out the lineup. While China brings a higher-rated player on every board, Russia's squad is known for strong performances in fast time controls. Keep an eye on the clock when this critical Eastern Division match is underway.

Western Division PRO Chess League
The opening week in the Central Division offers significant national rivalries. Which team will prevail in the battle between Scandinavian countries?

4. Norway Gnomes vs. Sweden Wasabis (Thursday, Jan. 9, 9:30 a.m. PST)

Sweden's PRO Chess League debut will be against their Scandinavian rivals, the Norway Gnomes. While the Wasabis are new to the league, their team is already one of the Central Division preseason favorites as both Bassem Amin and Alexei Shirov have signed with Sweden for the 2020 season. Amin will be joined by Nikita MeshkovsEmmanuel Berg, and Erik Blomqvist on Thursday when the Wasabis will seek their first league win.

Sweden Wasabis PRO Chess League
Sweden looks to be one of the stronger teams in the Central Division this year.

The Gnomes bring back a majority of their roster from last year, as Norway seeks to improve on their Central Division Finals appearance. Jon Ludvig Hammer leads the charge for Norway, and Frode Urkedal, Hans Niemann, and Tor Frederik Kaasen round out the Gnomes' lineup. Expect this match to be close because a win means bragging rights for the season.

The Wasabis interviewed Emmanuel Berg to get his thoughts on the upcoming season, which you can read here.

5. France Roosters vs. Poland Hussars (Thursday, Jan. 9, 11:45 a.m. PST)

France needs no introduction to the PRO Chess League. Born from the Marseilles Migraines and Cannes Blitzstreams, the France Roosters now unite the country's best players. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will play on top board with Etienne BacrotMaxime Lagarde and Yannick Gozzoli completing the lineup.

France Roosters PRO Chess League
Does France finally have a team that can rival Saint Louis for the PRO Chess League title?

The Poland Hussars enter their inaugural season and bring three 2600+ players in their debut. Mateusz BartelKacper Piorun, and Bartosz Socko will look to hold their ground against one of the PRO Chess League's top teams this season. With both Jan-Kryzsztof Duda and Radoslaw Wojtaszak out, this match will be an early test of Poland's depth. If the Hussars can pull off the upset, they can control their own destiny and move forward in the Central Division.

Fantasy PRO Chess League Returns

PRO Chess League Fantasy
The PRO Chess League's Fantasy Contest returns! Make sure to enter before each division starts to be eligible to win weekly prizes!

This year the PRO Chess League is raising the stakes with its Fantasy Contest that offers weekly cash prizes and even more opportunities to win. Every week will have three contests, one for each division. The first-place finisher in each contest will win a three-month diamond membership, and a perfect submission in any contest will win up to $100, so make sure to complete your three submissions every week.

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