PRO Chess Teams Power Up For Week Two
The battle for St. Louis and other clashes will take place in week 2.

PRO Chess Teams Power Up For Week Two

MikeKlein
FM MikeKlein
Jan 14, 2019, 8:29 PM |
13 | Chess Event Coverage

The new scoring system of the Professional Online Rapid (PRO) Chess League means teams aren't just trying to eke out victories. They're trying to demolish their opponents and run up big scores.

So, get ready for some teams to use some big names to try to open up big leads early in the season.

How did that play out in week one? Unsurprisingly, the league top team, the St. Louis Arch Bishops (one of last year's semifinalists), produced the biggest score, along with the Montreal ChessBrahs. The Arch Bishops 10.5-5.5 win over the London Lions means that they aren't simply tied with a bevy of other 1-1 teams. Instead, they lead all teams in the Atlantic Division and in fact would lead in any division in this young stage of the season.

St. Louis Arch Bishops St. Louis Arch Bishops

However, such is the nature of the chess capital of the U.S. that they could very well go from number one in the world to number two in their city! That's because up next in week two of the PRO Chess League, the Arch Bishops face their traditional rivals, the Webster Windmills.

Here's the full pairings and lineups for this week's matchups.

The clash used to be an ersatz collegiate matchup (Webster just won the 2018 Pan-Ams) and its PRO squad is not only 17-strong, but also made up entirely of past or current Webster students. There's even a Polgar!

The Arch Bishops "home field" is the Saint Louis Chess Club, which has close ties and partially sponsors the St. Louis University chess team. While they do stock their roster with Billikens, they also "spike the punch" with two world top 10s.

Just like in week one, GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Wesley So will lead the way for St. Louis, while Webster's top two guns are degree-bearing GM Ray Robson and degree-seeking GM Illya Nyzhnyk.

Neither Caruana nor So scored a perfect 4.0/4 in the opener, but their boards three and four both turned in respectable 50 percent scores. In week one we also saw from the Windmills that it's really nice when your board four is fast.

The Lions will looks to rebound against the Montclair Sopranos, fresh off their GM Hou Yifan signing, although she will sit out this week as young GM Sam Sevian leads the Garden State.

The other week one crushers, the ChessBrahs, will look to continue their strong form. How could they also score 20.5 points without the services of world champion candidates? It didn't hurt that one of the opening week's MVPs, GM Ivan Saric, scored a perfect 4.0/4 (TPR: 2890), or that board three GM Eric Hansen, chipped in 3.5/4.

They are both back in action this week against the Miami Champions, led by free agent GM Pavel Eljanov.

The New York Marshalls, also winners in week one, will face the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers, where GM Awonder Liang slides down to board two this week in favor of GM Sergey Erenburg (formerly a star player in the U.S. Chess League for the "other" in-state metropolis in Philadelphia.

In the Pacific Division, none of the winners in week one will face one another, which means there's a decent likelihood one or more of the teams can jump out to a big early-season point total (and a few teams might get very desperate). 

Last year's finalist, the Chengdu Pandas, will throw two 2700s out there—GMs Yu Yangyi and Li Chao. Neither played in the opener but that didn't hurt one bit (it helps to have GM Ding Liren got 4.0/4 and lead the entire league with a 2899 TPR). With Ding now playing in Wijk aan Zee, he will let his teammates take over against GM Alexey Dreev, the only grandmaster on the roster of the San Diego Surfers.

The Seattle Sluggers benefitted in week one from GM Hikaru Nakamura switching back to them (he once lived in the area and had formerly played for them during the U.S. Chess League).

Hikaru NakamuraHikaru Nakamura

He's not in Gibraltar yet (although he's been known to play in the PRO League while competing in an over-the-board tournament), so we will see if he can do even better than the 3.5/4 as he leads his team against the Dallas Destiny and GM Jeffery Xiong.

In other action, the Minnesota Blizzard will face the San Jose Hackers, while the San Francisco Mechanics will try to cull the Australia Kangaroos

All of the teams mentioned above will play Tuesday. On Thursday, the Eastern and Central divisions get their shot.

Whereas none of the early leaders are matched in the Pacific Division, they are all meeting in the Eastern Division. The Mumbai Movers (19.5) get the 2018 champion Armenia Eagles (19.0), while the Moscow Wizards (19.5) take on the Tbilisi Gentlemen (19.0).

Tbilisi GentlemenTbilisi Gentlemen

The Eagles improved their championship lineup with the signing of free agent and current world junior chess champion GM Parham Maghsoodloo. He didn't play week one, but he makes his league debut as the Eagles' leader against GM Baskaran Adhiban, who returns as board one for the Movers (last week: 4.0/4).

The most Gentlemanly player, GM Baadur Jobava, will try to charm the Wizards, who are led by GM Sanan Sjugirov. Like Maghsoodloo, Sjugirov gained prominence at the world junior championship, although the Wizards' board one lost first place on tiebreak back in his youth days. He will try to improve on last week: while he did not play, the Wizards won despite their leader scoring less than 50 percent.

In other Eastern Division action, all made up of teams who lost the opener, the Estonia Horses will try to gallup past the GM Pentala Harikrishna-led Delhi Dynamite, while the Volga Stormbringers and GM Dmitry Andreikin (who was the one who beat Sjugirov on tiebreaks in the world juniors back in the day!) will try to ground the Moscow Phoenix.

 Moscow Phoenix Moscow Phoenix

The premier matchup in the Central Division will be the Norway Gnomes against the Amsterdam Mosquitos. The battle of week one winners and diminutive creatures will have Gnomes GM Aryan Tari try to take the sting out of GM David Klein (no relation).

In other action, the upstart Barcelona Raptors will have an all-Riviera party with Cannes Blitzstreams. The Berlin Bears will take on the Ljubljana Turtles, while GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will also take a pit stop on the way to Gibraltar by leading his Marseille Migraines against the Baden-Baden Snowballs. He will need more help this week. Despite himself and his board two both scoring 3.0/4 last week, the Migraines' bottom two players only netted a single point from eight games.

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