PRO Chess League: Chengdu, Saint Louis Earn Way To San Francisco Semifinals

PRO Chess League: Chengdu, Saint Louis Earn Way To San Francisco Semifinals

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Two teams booked their tickets to the live PRO Chess League final four in San Francisco on Tuesday, as Saint Louis and Chengdu emerged victorious from their respective quarterfinals match-ups.

The two PRO Chess League powerhouses will have to wait one more week before knowing their semifinals pairings, as the Arch Bishops will face the winner of the Eastern Division quarterfinal, and Chengdu will take on the Central Division quarterfinal winner in May.

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Atlantic Division: Arch Bishops Edge Out Windmills, 9-7

The last time the Webster Windmills beat the Arch Bishops was in the second week of the 2017 PRO Chess League regular season, and it would appear that with GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Wesley So manning the top two boards for Saint Louis, that won't be changing any time soon.

With the PRO Chess League juggernaut jumping out to an early 3-1 lead, the Windmills pushed back, with third board GM Illia Nyzhnyk winning with the French against Caruana in the second round:

With teammates GM Ray Robson and GM Alexander Shimanov both winning, Webster entered the half level at four, but needed a late charge to overcome the Arch Bishops' draw odds. Unfortunately for the Windmills, the team started to lose ground when Caruana ground out Shimanov to take a 6.5-5.5 lead:

With Webster needing to take the final round 3-1, IM Nikolas Theodoru stepped up for the Arch Bishops, trapping Nyzhnyk's queen in the center of the board!

The Saint Louis University student converted his extra material in the endgame to finish 3/4 on the night from third board. With Caruana beating Robson, CM Joshua Grabinsky's late win was not enough for Webster, marking the end to its season.

The win means Saint Louis will return to San Francisco for the live PRO Chess Leage semifinals. Fittingly, after losing to Armenia in last year's event, the Arch Bishops will face the winner of next week's clash between the Armenia Eagles and the Tbilisi Gentlemen. With Wesley So unable to make the trip, team general manager Mike Kummer will have some important decisions to make these next few weeks.

Pacific Division: Chengdu Denies Late Comeback, Moves On

Even with its top two boards combining for 7.5/8 points, Chengdu nearly missed its chance to progress to the semifinals on Tuesday night against a balanced Minnesota Blizzard team. The Blizzard, who had lost in the quarterfinals last year in the Atlantic Division, were keen on making its first appearance in the live semifinals this May.

GM Li Chao opened scoring for the Pandas by besting IM John Bartholomew playing the Snake Benoni with Black:

With GM Fidel Corrales and GM Cristobal Henriquez matching Chengdu's score with two wins, Minnesota entered the second round tied at 2-2. While Minnesota continued to put up resistance, the 11-year-old Zhang Di was able to draw Henriquez, as Li Chao continued to choose an eclectic opening repertoire, this time using the Evans Gambit to beat GM Andrew Tang:

The Pandas took a one-point lead into halftime, and kept it through the third, meaning that the Blizzard would need to score 2.5/4 in the final round to upset the Pandas. After Corrales lost to Li Chao, Tang gave the Blizzard the spark they needed against GM Zhao Jun:

Now only trailing by a point, Minnesota needed a win from Bartholomew, as Henriquez was a sure draw against GM Wang Yue. Playing with White against Zhang Di, Bartholomew missed a critical chance to save the match:

The inevitable draw meant that Henriquez had to win an objectively equal position, and in trying to create winning chances, Wang Yue tallied another point for a 9-7 Pandas final score.

The loss sees an end to another impressive season from the Blizzard, as the Chengdu Pandas move on to the live semifinals in San Francisco this May. The Pandas will next face the quarterfinal winner of the Norway Gnomes and the Baden-Baden Snowballs. Chengdu has not faced either team in PRO Chess League matches or in any Battle Royale.

Commentary for this week of #prochess was provided by Robert Hess, Anna Rudolf, and Danny Rensch. All shows and archives are available at

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