PRO Chess League Summer Series: Barcelona Upsets Baden Baden, Pawngrabbers In Trouble
While GMs Liang, Forcen Esteban, and Kollars each scored important wins for their teams, the fans proved to be the group's biggest factor.

PRO Chess League Summer Series: Barcelona Upsets Baden Baden, Pawngrabbers In Trouble

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Group B of the PRO Chess League Summer Series kicked off with major upsets in both Live Club Matches. Barcelona announced their return to the PRO Chess League by burying Baden Baden in their match, which was followed by a strong showing in the Knockout Battles. In the biggest surprise of the day, the Reykjavik Puffins proved they belonged in the competition by throttling the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers after a 471-day PRO Chess League absence.

Determined to make an opening-week statement, GM Daniel Forcen Esteban's positional expertise led the Raptors on an early winning streak. While strong performances usually mean points in the standings, GM Awonder Liang will certainly be questioning his fan club's support. Liang was the only unbeaten player on Saturday (three wins, three draws), but a low turnout from the "Black and Gold" has the Pawngrabbers at the bottom of the group. 

The Puffins' fan club propelled Reykjavik to three points, placing them in prime position to challenge for a Summer Series Championship bid.

    Live Club Match: Barcelona's Bottom Boards Dominate, Raptors Melt Snowballs

    General Manager FM Jose Herrera remembered Barcelona's 12-4 loss to the PRO Chess League finalists and sent the Raptors' best player, GM Daniel Forcen Esteban, to seek revenge. To lead the charge, he would need to beat Snowballs' talented GM Dmitrij Kollars. Using his opening knowledge and versatility to outmaneuver Kollars, Esteban broke the center and used his knights to create an unstoppable attack:

    The win from Forcen Esteban put the Raptors on an unstoppable winning streak. Roldwin, playing for Barcelona, earned a special win—beating an entire PRO Chess League team. The Spanish player used the King's Indian to beat the Berlin Bears' official team account, when the German General Manager Bo Wimmer played with white pieces:

    In what may have been the most interesting game of the match, jay0411 offered a double-edged exchange sacrifice, scoring another point for the Barcelona Raptors.

    With a draw likely between Kollars and Forcen Esteban in their rematch, the match was out of reach for Baden Baden. Despite the setback, Saturday's featured streamer, Bikfoot, scored a win for the Snowballs to end the match:

    The Raptors took the match 40-24, which gave Barcelona the first three points in Group B. The Snowballs, on the other hand, needed a strong showing in the Knockout Battles to avoid a dreaded 0-point week.

    Knockout Battles: GM Kollars Wins Rematch Against Forcen Esteban

    Unlike traditional playoff formats, the Summer Series Knockout Battles offer players only one game each round to progress to the finals. Alongside Forcen Esteban and Kollars, Pittsburgh's GM Awonder Liang and Reykjavik's GM Bragi Thorfinnsson completed the four-player knockout:

    With Group A over, this week promised a Knockout Battle winner other than GM Varuzhan Akobian, who had won each of the three previous weeks.

    Unlike Group A, the field for Saturday's Knockout Battles was extremely balanced. With GMs representing each of the four teams, fan growth was a critical factor because both Barcelona and Baden Baden were White in the initial 15|2 pairings.

    Kollars' preparation in the Taimanov Sicilian proved to be dangerous against Thorfinnsson, as the 19-year-old got an early advantage and eventually converted with relative ease.

    Commentator IM Levy Rozman made note of Forcen Esteban's preparation against Liang, as the Raptor built pressure early on the kingside. As the Spaniard was about to win, time trouble spoiled the endgame, and the Pawngrabber escaped with a draw to force a bullet tiebreak: 

    The tiebreak was forced when Forcen Esteban established a significant advantage and then cashed out with a draw, which secured his bid in the finals against Kollars. Determined to finish on a perfect six-point week, Forcen Esteban pushed with White but blundered after entering an awkward material imbalance. Kollars got his revenge and delivered mate, despite the Raptor having two queens on the board:

    In the third-place match, Liang and Thorfinnsson had drawn their first match-up that forced the second bullet tiebreak of the day. Having seen Thorfinsson's earlier loss to Kollars, Awonder entered the Taimanov Sicilian, sacrificing early and often to win convincingly:

    Baden Baden's Knockout Battle win earned them three points in the standings. Barcelona earned two points, and Pittsburgh earned their first point of the Summer Series. Additionally, Kollars won a first-place prize of $100, Forcen Esteban won $60, and Liang won $40 for their performances in the Knockout Battles.

    Live Club Match: Reykjavik Returns To The PRO Chess League In Style, Pawngrabbers Fans MIA

    With Liang finding his form for Pittsburgh with the win against Thorfinnsson, the Pawngrabbers seemed ready for their first Live Club Match. PRO Chess League pundits saw Pittsburgh as a favorite to advance from the group, given their fan club's massive online support for the "Black and Gold." With Reykjavik collapsing in the Knockout Battles, the Pawngrabbers looked to be the odds-on favorite to win the Live Club Match.

    Minutes before the match kicked off, the Puffins began arriving to the match en masse, massively outnumbering Pittsburgh. In just eight minutes, Reykjavik took a 10-0 lead, leaving the Pawngrabbers in the dust. The massive deficit led Rozman to fault openly the Pawngrabbers' fan club on air:

    Matters got worse before they got better. Even with Liang outplaying Thorfinnsson on the top board, the Pawngrabbers could not match the pace of the Puffins. luitjen1 showed his technique and as White bested the Scandinavian to add to the tally:

    On a lower board, Typewriter44, who has played in nearly every Live Club Match this Summer Series, outmuscled his opponent by using the power of the bishop pair and scored for the Puffins once more:

    Unfortunately for Liang, Reykjavik had already clinched the match by the time he won his first game. That did not stop the Pawngrabber from winning another impressive game as White against Thorfinnsson. This time the Icelandic GM opted for the Caro-Kann, but Awonder had some important theoretical ideas in store:

    Even with Pittsburgh's top players scoring late, the match finished 31-19 in favor of the Puffins, giving Reykjavik three points in the standings. When asked about his team's performance, FM Ingvar Johannesson said:

    "Feels great to be back. Many of the players were quite bummed when we didn't make it through qualification last season. It was really important for us to start with a win, but we know that we must finish strong. We are really happy about the fan support, and we hope to have an even bigger and stronger turnout in the next matches.

    To the fans, thanks for showing up and supporting the Puffins, let's sail it home together. THE PUFFINS! THE PUFFINS! THE PUFFINS!"

    A lot can happen over the next two weeks, but the Puffins have put themselves in great position heading into next week's Live Club Matches.

    Next Week's Matches

    Next week will prove to be crucial for all four teams in Group B. Reykjavik will have a chance to take the lead in the standings with their match against Barcelona, and Baden Baden's contest against Pittsburgh is a must-win for both sides. If you want to be part of the action, join your favorite team's fan club:

      Team Points Club
    Barcelona Raptors 5 Fan Club
    Baden Baden Snowballs 3 Fan Club
    Reykjavik Puffins 3 Fan Club
    Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers 1 Fan Club

    Tune into the Summer Series this Saturday, June 29, at 8 a.m. Pacific time on Twitch.tv/chess to watch the action live!


    Commentary for this week of #summerseries was provided by IM David Pruess, IM Levy Rozman, FM Jose Herrera, and Bikfoot. The primary commentary shows and archives are available at Twitch.tv/chess.


     

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