Chess Stars Clash In PRO Rivalry Week

Chess Stars Clash In PRO Rivalry Week

| 10 | Chess Event Coverage

If you see two neighboring dots in the map above, chances are they're going head-to-head in week two of the PRO Chess League. It's rivalry week, and it begins tomorrow.

The clashes may not be El Clásico yet, but give it time; the league is only seven days old (and we trust the players won't behave this badly toward each other).

We will also see the first appearances of some of the league's world-class players. Grandmasters rated 2700+ like Li Chao (a perfect 4-0 in week one for the Montreal Chessbrahs) will return while Hikaru Nakamura (Miami Champions) will log in and see what the worldwide league is all about.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Marseille Migraines) will be back after his own 4-0 personal mark in week one to try to stay perfect on the season.

While he may yet get a chance to scribble all over the St. Louis teams, first GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has to conquer his native France.

Let's look at some of the most interesting matchups around the four divisions.

Eastern Division

The Curry Bowl kicks off the action as the Delhi Dynamite looks to blow up the Mumbai Movers (apologies to Amaravati, you'll get your chance later). The cities are 1-2 in terms of population in India, but it's the players' ratings and titles that matter much more than that.

Delhi fields a slightly spicier lineup with three GMs and one IM, while Mumbai counters with two GMs and two IMs. It's all native cooking here -- all eight players are in the Indian federation and in the top 80 of the country.

Another featured matchup will be A vs. B. That would be the Adriatic versus the Baltic Seas as the Ljubljana Direwolves match with the Riga Magicians. Neither team tasted defeat in week one, as surprisingly to some Latvia showed its strong historical chess traditions trumped the newfound chess craze in Norway.

This will be the mostly-2600s show, as the Slovenian GMs Luka Lenič and Jure Škoberne hope to thwart the magic tricks of Igor Kovalenko and Arturs Nieksans.

Ljubljana in winter. Beautiful, but if you're not skiing, it's chess weather.

Other matchups include Odisha vs. Amaravati; the Russian Cup of Gorky vs. Shymkent; the Battle for the Danube with Belgrade vs. Budapest; and the glad-this-is-played-on-the-internet matchup of 15,000km non-neighbors Norway vs. Johannesburg.

Central Division

If you've had a migraine for more than four hours, you should probably see a doctor, or it may just be that your team's been matched with Vachier-Lagrave. The world's number-five and leader of the Marseille Migraines has a second home on the internet and it wouldn't surprise many if he played every week.

After going perfect in the opener, he prepares to give the Cannes Blockbusters a headache this week.

While Vachier-Lagrave didn't win the Palme d'Or in week one (Li Chao won best game while GM Daniel Naroditsky won best move), he will have four chances against his French Rivieran rival.

If he doesn't play a brilliancy against current French champion GM Matthieu Cornette, he will get another chance against Cornette's wife! IM Deimante Daulyte plays board three for the Blockbusters. Other notable players include boards two GM Étienne Bacrot (Marseille) and GM Robert Fontaine (Cannes).

While many teams are very close geographically, just two teams share the same city name. This week will mark the Battle of London, or in this case the Battle for London as the Lions try to scale the Towers.

A "Public Service Announcement" for tomorrow.

There's also the Battle for Scandinavia, as the lovable Puffins will try to show that 4.5 hours of sunlight in Reykjavik is enough against the comparatively robust pleasure of the Snowballs' seven hours of light in Stockholm tomorrow. What can a lack of vitamin D do to four chess players?

The Icelanders won the week-one social media award for this video and their comprehensive blog.

In case you're wondering, IM Bjorn Thorfinnsson is in the lineup again this week. "I am sailing it home!" he pronounced at the end of his dramatic game. As the hosts of "Top Gear" remind us, when you're "sailing" above the Arctic Circle, there are no drinking laws to inhibit the fun.

Also on the docket in the Central Division will be the once and current capitals of Nigeria, Lagos vs. Abuja; the Dutch Masters grouping with Amsterdam taking on Apeldoorn; and the battle for 53 degrees N longitude, Dublin vs. Hamburg.

Atlantic Division

New York and Miami may not seem like sister cities, but many residents of the former often end up in the latter. The most famous chess player to do so would of course be Nakamura, who has taken his talents south since he owns property in a Miami suburb (people don't often go the other way!).

He will play for the Champions for the first time, and will look to get them their first win.

How happy were fans of Miami to hear this news? Probably about as happy as George Costanza:

The bona fides don't end with Nakamura. His teammate will be top Venezuelan GM Eduardo Iturrizaga and they'll be bookended by board four Nikhil Kumar, the current world youth under-12 champion.

New York with use a double Pinoy roster on the middle boards (GMs Mark Paragua and Oliver Barbosa) to buttress former Soviet champion and world champion candidate GM Leonid Yudasin on board one.

Also of interest for many fans will be the Maple Leaf special as the Montreal Chessbrahs take on the Toronto Dragons. In week one Li Chao already showed that he spoke French pretty well, going 4-0 for the Québécois contingent. They'll use him again, but league rules allow only one "free agent" in the lineup per week, so the PRO Chess League will have to keep waiting for GM Fabiano Caruana's first appearance.

GM Fabiano Caruana, still laying in wait for the Chessbrahs.

Also in the Atlantic Division for week two will be the South American fiesta between Buenos Aires and Patagonia and the continuance of the U.S. Chess League rivalry between Atlanta and Philadelphia. There's also the all-New Jersey matchup between the New Jersey Knockouts and Montclair Sopranos, featuring five Dons, or rather, GMs.

Lastly, Columbus and Carolina will finally try to settle which state is the true birthplace of flight.

Pacific Division

Week one was Californication in the PRO Chess League as the Golden State teams went 3-0. That trend can't continue into week two as the two winning Bay Area teams square off with the San Jose Hackers trying to break the code of the San Francisco Mechanics.

GM Sam Shankland just joined the Mechanics' roster, and just in time to try to nullify Hacker's GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who returns after winning all three games played in the opener (he did forfeit a game).

The Hackers will also try to shuffle more players into the lineup, as no fewer than seven teammates will play this week across the four rounds. You never know what will happen when two teams from opposing ends of San Francisco Bay meet, as we found out in 1989 with the Giants and the A's:

The Hackers also won best-written blog for this week one recap.

Another intriguing face-off will be the two St. Louis-area teams. The Webster Windmills and St. Louis Arch Bishops are less than seven miles from each other as the crow flies, making them the two closest teams with the possible exception of the Londoners. While GM Wesley So sits out this week (something about playing in some other event), 2600s will again be growing on trees as 75 percent of the combatants are either above or once cleared that mark (GMs Ray Robson, Illya Nyzhnyk, and Manuel Leon Hoyos for Webster and GMs Dariusz Swiercz, Varuzhan Akobian, and Alejandro Ramirez for St. Louis).

If that's not enough, the Windmill spins around in later rounds to cycle in two more 2600s -- GMs Vasif Durarbayli and Aleksandr Shimanov.

The Webster Windmills will play five men who are above 2600 or have their peak ratings there!

Other matchups include the Lone Star fight between Texas teams Rio Grande and Dallas and the eternal hipster/coffee debate between Portland and Seattle. There's also the winter snow factories of Minnesota and Pittsburgh while rounding out the action will be the sun-drenched cities of San Diego and Las Vegas.

Pittsburgh lost week one but did win in a few other areas. As their video recap mentions, the Steelers are still alive in the NFL playoffs, while the video itself won best video recap.

All matches will be covered live on, with hosts taking you from start to finish. League night (or day depending on where you are) is every Wednesday during the season, and shows begin around 11:00 a.m. Eastern / 4:00 p.m. GMT, and continue until roughly midnight Eastern / 5:00 a.m. GMT. Go to and check out the schedule for more details!

The full league schedule can be found here.

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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