PRO Chess League Summer Series: Chessbrahs Sneak By Blitzstreams; Minnesota Upsets Norway
GM Eric Hansen and the Montreal Chessbrahs narrowly beat the Blitzstreams to take the Group D lead.

PRO Chess League Summer Series: Chessbrahs Sneak By Blitzstreams; Minnesota Upsets Norway

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The opening of Group D in the PRO Chess League Summer Series had it all. The Montreal Chessbrahs pulled off an improbable comeback to beat the Cannes Blitzstreams, and the Minnesota Blizzard shocked the PRO Chess League when the Blizzard fans knocked off the Norway Gnomes, a Summer Series tournament favorite.

While GM Eric Hansen's side is off to a fast start, the Canadians must now break "The curse of five" if they hope to qualify for the Summer Series Championships. The San Francisco Mechanics, Barcelona Raptors and the Mumbai Movers each started group play with five points in the opening week, and all three teams failed to clinch an automatic qualifying spot in the tournament's postseason.

A close match win over the Blitzstreams puts the Montreal Chessbrahs on top of Group D after the opening week.

Live Club Match: Top Boards Deliver For Chessbrahs In Close Encounter With Cannes, 54.5-53.5

Fans had waited months to play in the Summer Series Group D. The group's opening match tied the record set by the Moscow Wizards and Sao Paulo Capybaras for most fans participating (108 players)—though this match was much closer. Montreal entered the match the favorite to win, backed by Hansen(@erichansen) on top board. Representing Cannes, Kevin Bordi (@Blitzstream) proved to be tough opposition for the Chessbrahs as many of his strongest viewers on Twitch arrived en masse to the match.

Cannes was quick to build a 10-point lead, holding the advantage for much of the match. Attacks from players like @rockytal31 made a Canadian comeback seem impossible:

After beating Bordi's Scandinavian, Hansen ground out a win with Black, besting Blitzstream once again with an exchange sacrifice:

Montreal's charge at the end of the game came quickly. If not for @redbunnybun saving a game, it may have all been for naught. After losing a queen, the English player fully recovered, which was enough to tie the match 53.5-53.5:

Shortly after @redbunnybun won, @Mzungu scored the final point of the match, sealing an improbable comeback for Montreal, 54.5-53.5:

The last-second comeback meant Montreal earned three points in the standings, while Cannes had to hope for a result in the Knockout Battles to score points in the opening week.

Knockout Battles: Hammer Outlasts Tang, Hansen To Win Knockouts

Unlike traditional playoff formats, the Knockout Battles offer players just one game each round to progress to the finals. Alongside Hansen and Bordi, Norway's GM Jon Ludvig Hammer (@gmjlh) and Minnesota's GM Andrew Tang (@penguingm1) completed the four-player knockout:

GM Jon Ludvig Hammer scored a critical three points for the Norway Gnomes in Saturday's Knockout Battles.

The Knockouts' first round saw Hansen paired again with Bordi, just moments after their live club match encounter. Hansen built a positional bind early, and was able to win with a crushing kingside attack:

After drawing his game with Tang, Hammer needed to hold with Black in the bullet tiebreak to draw. Despite facing a significant time disadvantage early, the Norwegian was resourceful, and boxed in Tang's king to progress to the next round:

The results meant a third-place encounter between Tang and Bordi, while a final between Hansen and Hammer was set. Tang played his favorite opening, the London System, against Bordi to win a material advantage. Despite some resistance from the French side, Tang simplified the position to clinch a third-place finish:

In the final, Hammer played the Berlin Defense against the Ruy Lopez, and quickly found himself chasing White's rook. While Hansen's creativity had paid off in his other games, Hammer was able to convert his activity into a strategically winning endgame:

Norway's Knockout Battle win earned three points in the standings. Montreal earned two points, and Cannes earned its first point of the day. Hammer won a first-place prize of $100. Hansen won $60 and Tang won $40 for their performances in the Knockout Battles.

Live Club Match: Minnesota Hammers Norway For Summer Series Upset, 43-31

Norway entered Group D's opening week a favorite to win the event. After a strong showing in the Knockout Battles, it seemed as if Hammer and the Gnomes were ready to melt the Minnesota Blizzard. 

Despite falling behind early in the match, Hammer kept the Gnomes in range when he sacrificed his queen to deliver mate on the board against Tang. The sacrifice came as such a surprise that both Chess.com commentators missed the tactic:

The Blizzards continue to score late, and despite losing the Knockout Battle match and the first game to Hammer, it was Tang who got the last laugh:

By beating Gnomes 43-31, Minnesota earned three points in the standings. The result pushed the Blizzard to the second place in the Group D standings, putting the team in excellent position for Summer Series Championship qualification in the closing two weeks.

Summer Series Championship Live Bracket;

The Baden Baden Snowballs still lead the Reykjavik Puffins in fan growth. This week, the Snowballs are on track to win Group B by the fan-growth tiebreaker. Both teams scored 10 points in their group. The Sao Paulo Capybaras and Moscow Wizards tied for first in Group C, both scoring 12 points. Sao Paulo currently has the better fan-growth tiebreak. The final fan-growth count will take place on August 14.

The San Francisco Mechanics and the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers have already qualified for the third-place vote. Both the Mumbai Movers and the Armenia Eagles tied for third place in Group C, and the team with the better fan tiebreak will earn their position in the third-place vote on August 17.

Next Week's Matches

Next week, Norway will take on group leaders Montreal in a highly anticipated live club match. Cannes will be looking to rebound on Saturday, with a strong showing against the Minnesota Blizzard. 

With so much on the line, make sure to join your favorite clubs before next week's live club matches. You can play for more than one team in any week!

2019 PRO Chess League Summer Series | Group D Standings

Team Points Club
Montreal Chessbrahs 5 Fan Club
Minnesota Blizzard 4 Fan Club
Norway Gnomes 3 Fan Club
Cannes Blitzstreams 0 Fan Club

Tune in to the Summer Series this Saturday, August 10, at 9 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 and NM James Canty III. 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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