PRO Chess League Summer Series: Late Pittsburgh Heroics Bounce Raptors As Snowballs, Puffins Progress
A perfect week from IM Minh Le and the Pawngrabbers means Baden Baden and Reykjavik clinched playoff spots, while Barcelona was knocked out on Saturday.

PRO Chess League Summer Series: Late Pittsburgh Heroics Bounce Raptors As Snowballs, Puffins Progress

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Group B of the PRO Chess League Summer Series came to a close on Saturday with Baden Baden Snowballs and Reykjavik Puffins both clinching spots in the Summer Series Championship. The biggest surprise of the series so far came from IM Tuan Minh Le of the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers, who captained a perfect six-point week for the "Black and Gold" that was just enough to knock the Barcelona Raptors out of the series. 

Even though both Baden Baden and Reykjavik qualified for the series with 10 points, the tie means that PRO Chess League fans will not know which team will win the group until August 14, when the final Fan Growth tiebreaker is calculated. Currently, the Snowballs lead by 57 fans and sit on top of Group B. Pittsburgh, with a third-place finish, will have to wait until the Twitter vote on August 17 to see if their journey in the PRO Chess League Summer Series continues:

The Barcelona Raptors led the group after the opening week but slipped into a last-place finish after Pittsburgh's perfect performance.

    Live Club Match: Reykjavik Finishes With Perfect Live Club Match Record, Topples Baden Baden

    Prior to the Puffins' opening-week win against the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers, Reykjavik had not won a PRO Chess League match since February 7, 2018 that was against the Stockholm Snowballs. Since that match, the two sides have had very different trajectories. Reykjavik was relegated in 2018 and fell short in the 2019 Qualifiers. Stockholm placed first in the Central Division in 2018 and then relocated to Baden Baden before reaching the PRO Chess League Final last season.

    While pundits lauded the Snowballs' recent success, the Puffins' fan base scored their third consecutive Summer Series upset, making them the second team to successfully sweep their Group Stage opponents in the Live Club Matches (the Chengdu Pandas were the first).

    Even with the Puffins building a significant early lead, GM Georg Meier (@GeorgMeier) sacrificed his queen early to beat IM Gudmundur Kjartansson (@iceboy88) to put Baden Baden on the board:

    Meier won both of his games against the Puffins' representative, but it was not enough to keep up with Reykjavik's pace. @kbkhan91 used his opening knowledge to his advantage to score for the Puffins:

    @Art-Vega, who has played in nearly every Summer Series match this season, used his skills with the Queen's Gambit to score another point for the Icelandic side:

    The Puffins took the match 21-11, launching Reykjavik to the top of the group before the start of the Knockout Battle. While Baden Baden lost the match, they still were in control of their destiny heading into the Knockouts. With Reykjavik earning three points, both Pittsburgh and Barcelona needed top-level performances in the Knockout Battles to keep their Summer Series dream alive.

    Knockout Battles: IM Minh Le Surprises Fans, Starts Late Pittsburgh Comeback

    Unlike traditional playoff formats, the Knockout Battles offer players just one game each round to progress to the finals. Alongside Meier and Kjartansson, Pittsburgh's IM Tuan Minh Le and Barcelona's IM Carles Diaz Camallonga completed the four-player knockout:

    IM Minh Le was not favored to win the Knockout Battle, but his PRO Chess League experience paid off to double Pittsburgh's points in the standings.

    Minh Le, better known to Chess.com as @wonderfultime, showed his prowess as a bullet specialist by beating Kjartansson with the London System:

    On the other side of the bracket, Meier did not need a bullet tiebreak to beat Camallonga (@carlesdc96). Instead, he played a sideline in the Catalan to reach a favorable endgame:

    Meier's win was enough to reclaim first in the standings, but Pittsburgh desperately needed their Vietnamese star to pull the upset. Minh Le, who had previously beaten Wesley So, Rauf Mamedov, and other top-level GMs in the PRO Chess League, was able to outplay the German GM with the black pieces.

    With Pittsburgh beating the PRO Chess League finalists, the Pawngrabbers broke the Snowballs' successful streak in the Knockout Battles. The third-place match between Kjartansson and Camallonga ended in a draw, but Kjartansson earned his first Summer Series win of the season in the bullet tiebreak:

    Pittsburgh's Knockout Battle win earned three points in the standings. Baden Baden earned two points, and Reykjavik earned their 10th point of the Summer Series. Additionally, Minh Le won a first-place prize of $100, Meier won $60, and Kjartansson won $40 for their performances in the Knockout Battles.

    Live Club Match: Pittsburgh Denies Barcelona Playoff Berth, Finishes Perfect Performance

    Despite a zero-point performance in the Knockout Battles, Barcelona still could make their claim to a Summer Series Championship spot with a win over Pittsburgh. The Raptors had the best fan growth in the entire group, so a Live Club Match win would see Barcelona provisionally in first place despite the three-way tie with Baden Baden and Reykjavik. Even with a match draw, Barcelona would clinch a third-place finish, meaning the Raptors would have their chance to qualify in the Twitter vote on August 17.

    Thanks to Minh Le's incredible performance in the Knockout Battles, Pittsburgh had a lifeline. A match win would guarantee a third-place finish, enough to keep the Pawngrabbers alive. @golddusttori scored early for the "Black and Gold," and Pittsburgh never looked back.

    Scoring for Pittsburgh on the higher boards, @chessmanlives capitalized on White's mistakes to build a decisive advantage:

    @Ferd_the_Absurd, who scored a critical win last week to help Pittsburgh draw Baden Baden, was miraculously able to escape in a time scramble:

    The points began piling on for the Pawngrabbers. Camallonga dealt Minh Le his first loss of the day, but Pittsburgh had already clinched the match win:

    Pittsburgh won the match 34.5-25.5, which was enough to place third in Group B. Pittsburgh is only the second team so far this Summer Series to score a perfect six-point week. Varuzhan Akobian led the Saint Louis Arch Bishops in week 2 in Group A to six points after beating the San Diego Surfers and winning the Knockout Battle.

    Unfortunately, Barcelona's Summer Series campaign has come to an end in Group B. While the Raptors will be disappointed with their fourth-place finish, they will look to use the experience to prepare their team for the PRO Chess League Qualifiers this fall. 

    Summer Series Championship Live Bracket

    The Baden Baden Snowballs and the Reykjavik Puffins join the Saint Louis Arch Bishops and Chengdu Pandas as confirmed teams in the Summer Series Championship this August. Because the Puffins and Snowballs are tied on points, the Group B winner will be determined by fan growth before the August 14 deadline.

    The San Francisco Mechanics and the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers will have to wait for the third-place Twitter vote on August 17 for their shot at a ninth or 10th place seed.

    Next Week's Matches

    Group C kicks off on Saturday, as the Mumbai Movers, Moscow Wizards, Armenia Eagles, and Sao Paulo Capybaras make their Summer Series debut. Compared to Groups A and B, this group features three playoff teams, and the first Brazilian team to compete in a non-qualifier PRO Chess League event.  

    2019 PRO Chess League Summer Series | Group C Standings

    Team Points Club
    Armenia Eagles 0 Fan Club
    Moscow Wizards 0 Fan Club
    Mumbai Movers 0 Fan Club
    Sao Paulo Capybaras 0 Fan Club

    Tune into the Summer Series this Saturday, July 13, at 7 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, and GoldDustTori. 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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