Carlsen Wants Revenge: PRO Chess Week 6

Carlsen Wants Revenge: PRO Chess Week 6

MikeKlein
FM MikeKlein
Feb 13, 2017, 12:00 AM |
9 | Chess Event Coverage

World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen has won many major events Chess.com has organized. Last year he won the Blitz Battle Championship, then just last week he shared first in his first-ever appearance in Titled Tuesday. He also crushed most Chess.com members in a simul in 2014.

Sure, he's never won a prize for best streamer, but other that that, the Professional Rapid Online (PRO) Chess League is clearly the next crown he's after.

Last week, his opening foray into the league, he "only" had three points in his four games. Draws to ChessBrahs GM Fabiano Caruana and IM Aman Hambleton proved costly as his Norway Gnomes fell by the narrowest margin possible, 8.5-7.5.

More important, Carlsen's team dropped to 2-3 overall and according to NM Sam Copeland's analysis, it likely needs to win the next two weeks to keep alive a chance for the postseason. As also mentioned, the road gets longer when you factor in that the team is playing an inter-divisional matchup against Eastern Division leaders Delhi Dynamite (4.5-0.5).

Who will be packing TNT for the Indian squad? GMs Abhijeet Gupta and Sahaj Grover, as well as FM Nihal Sarin and untitled Aradhya Garg. Carlsen will be joined by wunderkind GM Aryan Tari in addition to IM Kristian Struvik Holm and young FM Johannes Haug. Team manager GM Jon Ludvig Hammer chose not to call his own number after dropping the deciding game last week.

Central Division

When this reporter asked GM David Howell in Gibraltar to discuss the league, Howell did not yet know which team he'd play for! Since that time the hometown London Towers (3-2) convinced him not to take his talents to South Beach and instead play for (one of) the local clubs.

Not a cheat sheet: GM David Howell always wears a checkered wristband. (Photo: Sophie Triay)

The Towers are on the cusp of a playoff berth, as are their opponents, the Hamburg Swashbucklers (2.5-2.5). Do the Hamburgers have a secret sauce? Many league matches are won by underrated fourth boards, and the German enigma may be IM Jonathan Carlstedt, who is coming off an impressive run in Gibraltar where he captured a GM norm even before round nine began.

IM Jonathan Carlstedt ably played nine GMs in 10 rounds in Gibraltar, not losing until his norm had already been clinched. (Photo: Sophie Triay)

Two others at the top of the Central Division, Stockholm (4-1) and Marseille (3-2) are fighting not just to make the playoffs, but also for a top seed. The Swedes have more than a snowball's chance to extend their season, while the Migraines are going to try to make due without leader GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Surprisingly, the world number five has only factored into one of his team's three wins but has played in both matches they lost.

Atlantic Division

Sports loves a good #1 vs. #2 battle, and week six of the PRO Chess League brings that. The Philadelphia Inventors (4.5-0.5) square off with the Buenos Aires Krakens (4-1).

While the commissioner of the league is a Philly native, his team get no extra advantages this week, outside of using its one hired gun on top board. League rules allow one outside player to compete each week and the Inventors have gone with GM Andriy Vovk. He will team with longtime locals GM Sergey ErenburgIM Yaacov Norowitz and IM Tom Bartell (who has played for the previous incarnation of the Inventors since 2008).

Amazingly, this lineup achieves the maximum allowable lineup of 2499.75. Had any of the four added just one more rating point to his name, a 2500 average would have been illegal!

The Krakens are no slouches however. Argentinian numbers two and five, GMs Federico Perez Ponsa and Alan Pichot, lead a squad that won't be far behind in average rating.

Some analyses had the Montreal Chessbrahs (4-1) and Miami Champions (3.5-1.5) as the pre-season favorites due to their top boards. So far, both teams are mostly living up to the hype, but they'll line up against one another this week without their top players.

In the latitudinal battle of "no daylight" versus "always summer," neither Caruana nor GM Hikaru Nakamura will grab a mouse this Wednesday. Instead GM Robin van Kampen will debut as top board for the Canadians while GM Leinier Dominguez will try to prove that 2700s are interchangeable while leading the Champions.

The top Champion and Chessbrah won't play; instead they'll let their surrogates fight it out. (Photo: Sophie Triay)

Pacific Division

Comedian Lewis Black once joked that the easiest job in the world is being a weatherman in San Diego. "What's the weather like today? Nice. Now back to you..."

The same is true of being a pundit for the PRO Chess League. No team has been as dominant as the San Diego Surfers (5-0) this year. Pick them, and they win. They're the league's last remaining perfect-score team as they've been catching perfect waves all season.  What's their secret? Top juniors! They'll use that again this week as GM Alexey Dreev mans the pole position while boards three and four are not yet legal drinking age.

In another #1 vs. #2 matchup, they may have their toughest challenge yet this week against the St. Louis Arch Bishops (4-1). The 2014 U.S. Chess League champions and 2015 runners-up, America's number-one chess city will bring world number-two GM Wesley So back again. That's not all. So is joined by GMs Varuzhan Akobian and Ben Finegold, as well as sub-2200 Nicholas Rosenthal, who sensationally beat Vachier-Lagrave last week.

In other action, a stacked San Jose Hacker (3-2) quartet includes GMs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Daniel Naroditsky and Cristian Chirila. They'll attempt to cross Death Valley on the way to playing the Las Vegas Desert Rats (2.5-2.5), led by top player GM Timur Gareyev.

Let's also not forget about our panel's predictions. NM Alex King won week five and also took the lead in the overall standings. He picked up five games on longtime leader Tarjei Svensen and is now two games clear of him and IM Robert Ris.

Week Six Predictions:

Shaun McCoy is unabashedly proud of his "featured" predictions from last week.

IM Robert Ris thinks the Norwegians will get back on track but Howell can't help the Towers.

NM Pete Karagianis thinks Philly will suffer their first loss of the season.

NM Alex King is boldly trying to become the first pundit to correctly pick a tie -- he has three on the card this week.

Tarjei Svensen thinks Atlanta will recover after that awful Super Bowl collapse.

You can catch all the day-long action on www.Chess.com/TV or twitch.tv/chess beginning at 8 a.m. Pacific (5 p.m. CET) on Wednesday, February 15. And in case you're wondering, Carlsen's Norway team begins 30 minutes later at 8:30 a.m. Pacific, 5:30 p.m. CET.


Read up on everything you need to know about the PRO Chess League:

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