PRO Chess League Summer Series: Akobian Dominates, Arch Bishops Lead Group A

PRO Chess League Summer Series: Akobian Dominates, Arch Bishops Lead Group A

If you thought the Saint Louis Arch Bishops were not ready for the PRO Chess League Summer Series after last week's crushing loss to the Chengdu Pandas, think again! This week's Summer Series action saw GM Varuzhan Akobian dominate in both the Live Club Match and Knockout Battles, pushing the Arch Bishops to the top of Group A.

With Saint Louis earning six points in the standings on Saturday night, the San Francisco Mechanics now face a must-win Live Club Match next week if they hope to automatically qualify for the Summer Series Championship in August. IM Bao Qilin helped the Pandas earn five points in the standings, meaning Chengdu sits comfortably in second place, only trailing the Arch Bishops in the total fans tiebreaker.

With only one week left in Group A, San Francisco needs help if they hope to automatically qualify for the Summer Series Championships in August.

    Live Club Match: Saint Louis Spoils Wu's Rookie Debut

    NM Derek Wu did not have a chance to play in the 2019 PRO Chess League season, but when General Manager IM Keaton Kiewra offered him the start, Wu did not hesitate to accept the challenge. While many titled players dream of playing in the PRO Chess League, a rookie debut against the Saint Louis Arch Bishops is not for the faint of heart.

    Akobian challenged Wu early, playing a tricky line in the Pirc and sacrificing a queen to build an advantage. Wu missed a chance to win early, and Akobian did not give the Surfers another chance:

    Just like last week, San Diego's fans kept the Surfers in the match, thanks to a mid-match charge from streamer Andrea Botez, scoring a quick 2/2 for the Surfers.

    Even with the Surfers closing the gap, it didn't take Akobian long to score his second point of the match, besting Wu in a Slav. Akobian generated pressure early and positionally squeezed his national master opponent:

    The win was enough to secure match victory, as the Arch Bishops beat the Surfers 30-22 to earn three points in the standings. While Wu played admirably, the San Diego Surfers were still looking for their first point of the Summer Series.

    Knockout Battles: GM Varuzhan Akobian Wins His Second Knockout Battle

    Unlike traditional playoff formats, the Summer Series Knockout Battles offers players only one game each round to progress to the finals. Alongside Akobian and Wu, Chengdu's IM Bao Qilin and San Francisco's FM Ezra Chambers completed the four-player knockout:

    While last week's semifinals offered complex tactical battles, both Akobian and Bao created positional binds and controlled their respective games from the opening. 

    Bao won his game first, using a thematic sacrifice in the Catalan to break open the center. Unable to handle the pressure in the rapid time control, Wu's position collapsed giving Bao his first Summer Series win:

    Akobian chose a more tame approach against Chambers, opting for the Exchange Slav. While the Exchange Slav is known for being drawish, commentator GM Ray Robson noted that Wesley So's only classical win against Magnus Carlsen came in the same line in last year's Norway Chess. Akobian was quick to establish a positional advantage and didn't look back:

    Akobian set up a Finals match-up against Bao, and a third-place clash between Wu and Chambers. Despite being a massive underdog in each of his four games, Wu bested Chambers for his first PRO Chess League win, and earned the San Diego Surfers their first point of the Summer Series:

    While San Diego was mathematically eliminated from a top-two finish after the conclusion of the Knockout Battles, both Saint Louis and Chengdu should thank Wu for stealing a point from the Mechanics. By the end of the night, that one point proved to be consequential for San Francisco.

    Akobian managed to build a material advantage against Bao, but time trouble made the game interesting as the Arch Bishops' star still had to play precisely to score the win:

    Akobian finished the night on a five-game Summer Series win streak (dating back to last week) and is on 7/8 so far this season. The Arch Bishop is already vastly outperforming his 2019 PRO Chess League season record. Perhaps General Manager Mike Kummer will be giving Akobian more starts in 2020... 

    The win gave the Saint Louis Arch Bishops an additional three points in the standings. Chengdu earned two points, and Wu's win helped San Diego earn one point. Additionally, Akobian won a first place prize of $100, Bao won $60, and Wu won $40 for their performance in the Knockout Battles.

    Live Club Match: Chengdu's Fans Go On Scoring Spree, Take Match 34.5-19.5

    Last week, Chengdu's fans played Saint Louis in a dominating 46-28 win to open the Summer Series. While the Mechanics brought more titled players, the Pandas had the depth to be a rating favorite in the match. The biggest surprise was Armenia Eagles' General Manager CM Artak Manukyan entering the match, playing for the San Francisco Mechanics.

    Some rivalries never die.  

    In his first game with Black, Bao opened with the French, tricking Chambers early to seize the initiative and a material advantage. The Panda used his time advantage to push Chambers to the brink:

    Just like last week, Chengdu's fans doubled down with unrelenting force. The Pandas got a significant boost from their lower boards:

    Chambers was able to beat Bao with Black in their second match, but it was too late to overturn a lopsided score:

    The match finished 34.5-18.5 in favor of the Pandas as another incredible performance from the fans saw Chengdu earn another three points in the group standings. San Francisco failed to earn points on the night after the Live Club Match loss and a 4th place finish in the Knockout Battles.

    Next Week's Matches

    With Saint Louis having a perfect weekend, the Mechanics must now win their Live Club Match against the Arch Bishops if they want to automatically qualify for the Summer Series Championship. Both teams will be rooting for San Diego to play spoiler and upset the Chengdu Pandas.

    If San Francisco is to clinch a playoff berth next week they need one of the following scenarios to occur:

    • Beat Saint Louis in the Live Club Match
    • Finish two places higher than Saint Louis in the Knockout Battles

    OR

    • Beat Saint Louis in the Live Club Match
    • Finish two places higher than Chengdu in the Knockout Battles 
    • San Diego beats Chengdu in the Live Club Match

    Saint Louis and Chengdu will both automatically qualify for the Summer Series Championship next week if Saint Louis beats San Francisco in the Live Club Match.

    Should Saint Louis lose to San Francisco next week, the Arch Bishops can still clinch a playoff berth if they finish no worse than one place below San Francisco in the Knockout Battles

    Chengdu will automatically qualify for the Summer Series Championship if they beat San Diego in their Live Club Match, regardless of the Knockout Battle result.

    Should Chengdu lose to San Diego next week, the Pandas can still clinch a playoff berth if they finish no worse than one place below San Francisco in the Knockout Battles.


    Commentary for this week of #summerseries was provided by GM Ray Robson, IM David Pruess, NM James Canty III, Andrea Botez and GoldDustTori. The primary commentary shows and archives are available at twitch.tv/chess.


    Just learning about the PRO Chess League? Visit the site and check out the official information article.

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