PRO Chess League Sees Upsets, Comebacks, Heartbreak In Week 6
Don't miss the drama this week in the PRO Chess League!

PRO Chess League Sees Upsets, Comebacks, Heartbreak In Week 6

PROChessLeague
PROChessLeague
Feb 15, 2019, 6:12 PM |
8 | Chess.com News

With many late-stage comebacks across the PRO Chess League, fans will remember everything that week 6 had to offer—the New York Marshalls' incredible win over Webster, Cannes' upset over the Baden-Baden Snowballs, and Estonia just missing out on the upset of the year. 

While half of this week's action went down to the wire, 8 teams scored 9.5 points or more in their match wins. Upsets from London, Moscow, and Marseilles, created additional intrigue as teams vie for playoff spots heading into next week's Battle Royale. 

For crosstables and games from all matches, visit our weekly results page.

Cast your vote in the game and MVP of the week polls!

Atlantic Division: Marshalls Stun Webster as a Race for the Playoffs Begin

With first place in the Atlantic up for grabs, the primetime match between the New York Marshalls and the Webster Windmills did not disappoint, as both teams were looking for blood from the start of the match. Last week's MVP, NM Grant Xu, set the tone from the black side of a Scandinavian against Webster GM Vasif Durarbayli:

The game ended in a forced three-move repetition, which gave the Windmills a small 4.5-3.5 lead heading into half-time:

Things seemed to be headed the Windmills' way after the third round, with GM Alex Shimanov and Durarbayli both picking up critical wins. With a match score of 7-5, it seemed improbable that the New York Marshalls could make a comeback. After the match, Xu, the Marshalls' board four, told chess.com:

"We were obviously down 7-5, but in reality the match was much closer. Everyone was trying to win every single game (including me), and the results didn't pan out in the first 3 rounds."

Needing 3.5 points to make the comeback, the Marshalls started the final quarter with a surprise mate in one win from GM Sergei Azarov:

With teammate Grant Xu in control on board four, all eyes turned to GM Khamrakulov Djurabek's game against Webster's board three, Shimanov. Needing a win, Djurabek played the double-edged 8...g5 against the English Opening. The game turned into a tactical frenzy, but Black prevailed when Shimanov's knight landed on the g8 square:

With GM Wojciech Moranda holding a draw against GM Ray Robson to close the match, the Marshalls completed the comeback to keep a perfect match record on the season. When asked about the match finish, Xu told chess.com:

"Things eventually balanced out, and we honestly should have 4-0'd [Webster] in the last round. We don't win by huge margins, but we felt we could beat any team after knocking off St. Louis."

PRO Chess League fan favorite Grant Xu finished the night on a solid 1.5/4, a week after drawing both Caruana and So. The Carnegie Mellon University undergrad has massively outperformed his 2207 rating thus far, with a 2484 performance six weeks into the season.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the London Lions upset the Montreal Chessbrahs for their first win of the PRO Chess League season. Montreal's loss, combined with St. Louis' thrashing of the Montclair Sopranos, means a four-point margin for the fourth playoff spot with less than a month to go. With the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers now notching two consecutive wins, a strong performance in next week's Battle Royale from them could create some additional intrigue as the regular season comes to a close.

Pacific Division: Chengdu Bounces Back as Top Three Teams Emerge

Heading into week six of the PRO Chess League, only eight points separated third from sixth place in the Pacific Division. Sitting outside of the playoff picture, the San Jose Hackers brought GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov back into the lineup to take on the top-seeded Chengdu Pandas, who were looking to move past last week's upset loss to the San Francisco Mechanics.

Chengdu punched first when GM Li Chao beat IM-elect Christopher Yoo with a clinical rook endgame finish, and the floodgates opened when 11 year-old Zhang Di found an incredible resource to secure the half-point against world #5 Mamedyarov:

With the match score set at 3.5-0.5 in favor of Chengdu after round one, things looked bleak for the Hackers. While Mamedyarov was able to keep the margin at three with his second-round win over IM Li Di, the Panda's board one, GM Yu Yuangyi, set an incredible pace to start the match and after three periods, the score favored Chengdu, 8-4.

The Hackers, looking to replicate the Marshalls' good fortune from earlier in the night, started the round with a mouse slip, giving NM Vinesh Ravuri his first win of the night:

Now only trailing 5-8, the Hackers were gaining momentum. GM Eltaj Safarli played one of the most creative games of the night, as his king wandered from e1 to b8, giving an assist for the endgame win against Li Chao:

Unfortunately, the GOTW-caliber performance was not enough to win the match. With draws coming in on boards one and three, the Pandas put an end to the Hacker comeback, keeping their position at the top of the division:

With Dallas' narrow 8.5-7.5 win over the Minnesota Blizzard, and Australia's crushing 10-6 performance against the Sluggers, there's a little more separating the top three from the rest of the Pacific. Minnesota, San Jose, and Seattle are all in a race for the coveted fourth spot, as the Mechanics will be looking to clip sixth place and work their way out of the relegation zone next week.

Eastern Division: Tbilisi Wins Nail Biter Amidst Playoff Picture Shake-Up

While the Eastern Division's earlier clashes featured lopsided wins for the Volga Stormbringers, Moscow Wizards, and Armenia Eagles, the primetime clash gave the Estonia Horses a chance to take down the division-leading Tbilisi Gentlemen. Estonia, who famously clinched a playoff spot last season to knock the Norway Gnomes out of the post-season, needed to reverse their downward trend on Thursday to save the team from a relegation spot.

Backed by GM Baadur Jobava on board one, the Gentlemen took the lead early when GM Levan Pantsulaia put an end to a back-and-forth game against GM Jaan Ehlvest:

With Tbilisi also claiming the second and third round 2.5-1.5, the Horses were in deep trouble heading into the final round 7.5-4.5. Estonia, needing to score 3.5 points to mount a comeback, kicked into second gear when FM Kirill Chakuvin notched a point from fourth board.

Coupled with Ehlvest's win over GM Davit Jojua, things really started to go the Horses' way:

Only trailing by two, GM Twan Burg was just moments away from clinching a win against Pantsulaia, meaning GM Nikita Meshkov needed a draw against Jobava to complete the upset. In a massive time scramble, it was the Georgian who prevailed:

Burg scored a consolation point to finish the match, but the Gentlemen captured another match victory, 8.5-7.5, to keep their stronghold at the top of the standings:

With the Armenia Eagles beating the Moscow Phoenix, 11.5-4.5, the defending PRO Chess League Champions are in striking range of first in the Eastern Division. Despite needing late substitutions before their match with Mumbai, the Moscow Wizards swapped places with the Delhi Dynamite to enter the playoff picture. Keep an eye on the Moscow Phoenix in next week's Battle Royale—should they do well, the playoff race in this division may also become a race to avoid relegation!

Central Division: Cannes Wins Thriller as Top Teams Falter in the Central Division

Heading into Thursday's match-ups, the Norway Gnomes and Baden-Baden Snowballs each held a 25+ point lead in the standings over the third place Barcelona Raptors. However, with Cannes trailing 4th place by a half point, and Marseilles looking to continue its mid-season surge, both teams were on upset alert heading into week six.

The Cannes Blitzstreams kicked off Central Division action with GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda headlining the French roster, but it was Baden-Baden's board two, GM Kirill Alekseenko, who turned up the heat when he beat GM Sebastien Maze following this spectacular defensive effort:

The one point setback wasn't enough to discourage the Blitzstreams. With Duda, Maze, and GM Maxime Lagarde each made their mark on the score board in the 2nd round to take a 4.5-3.5 lead at the half. Duda, looking to cement his spot as one of the PRO Chess League's best performers then played one of the most exciting games of the day against Alekseenko:

Now trailing 6.5-5.5, Baden-Baden needed to make a late comeback to save the match, but when WIM Inna Agrest scored a point to start the round, the Blitzstreams needed a late push from their top two boards to pull off the upset.

Lagarde managed to outplay Alekseenko, but just eleven seconds later, IM Vincent Keymer leveled the score again at 7.5 apiece.

Looking to complete his perfect record on the day, Duda responded just twelve seconds after Keymer's win and came to the rescue with checkmate against GM Georg Meier:

The win not only sealed the upset for Cannes, but it gave Duda a 4/4 perfect finish on the day. He now sits in second behind GM Hikaru Nakamura on the PRO Chess League Leaderboard:

Even with the loss, the Snowballs still sit atop the Central Division, thanks to GM Laurent Fressinet's 4/4 score and a Marseilles Migraines 12-4 thrashing of the Norway Gnomes:

With Baden-Baden and Norway both losing, the middle of the table becomes interesting. With Barcelona and Amsterdam both winning their matches, the French teams are still currently outside of the playoffs with a month to go. While the Battle Royale next week will almost certainly change the balance, mark your calendars for the Cannes Blitzstreams' clash with the Amsterdam Mosquitoes on March 7. this race is that tight!


Commentary for this week of #prochess was provided by Robert Hess, Alexandra Botez, Anna Rudolf, David Pruess and Danny Rensch. All shows and archives are available at twitch.tv/chess.

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