Top 5 Highlights From PRO Chess League Week 3
Can Fabiano Caruana turn his excellent over-the-board form into online success? | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Top 5 Highlights From PRO Chess League Week 3

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10 | Chess Event Coverage

The rivalries and trash talk intensified in week 3 of the PRO Chess League. Let's look at the five highlights of the week:

  1. Rooster Domination
  2. Hidden Rivalries
  3. Wasabis Spicing It Up Live
  4. St. Louis Aren't Invincible
  5. Shocking Upsets

1. The France Roosters continue to mock the rest of the Central Division.

The France Roosters came out last week and said they wished they were in the Western Division because the Central Division was "too easy." Well, the Sweden Wasabis must have taken exception to that because after some back and forth on Twitter, we had a grudge match on Thursday.

Unfortunately for the Wasabis, the French team backed up its trash talk with a convincing 11-5 win. Here's the moment when GM Yannick Gozzoli swindled checkmate against GM Nils Grandelius as the French commentators laughed at the Swede's misfortune:

The tone was set early, as GM Dr. Bassem Amin came into the match with a 7/7 record, but lost his first game to GM Yannick Gozzoli:

Will anyone stop the Roosters or will they continue taunting their opponents until the playoffs, when they'll finally face off against teams from other divisions?

2. There are behind the scenes rivalries brewing in the Eastern Division.

In the PRO Chess League, all league players are put into a Zoom meeting room so they can be monitored by webcam as well as displayed live during our broadcast. One little-known fact is that the players can chat there, and in the feature match there was some brutal trash talk taking place.

The Armenia Eagles got off to a quick 3-0 lead when at last, GM Evgeny Tomashevsky scored the first half-point for Russia, drawing with GM Tigran Petrosyan

In the Zoom chat, Tigran gleefully said "Congratulations Evgeny on scoring the first point for your team!"

This was even more frustrating because Evgeny is a 2700+ rated player and he almost certainly wasn't satisfied with a draw. It seemed this made super-grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi angry, as he led his team to a rapid comeback by winning his next three games.

Nepo has an overwhelming position against Zaven Andriasian.

Unfortunately the Wizards couldn't close the gap after their disastrous first round and fell short by a score of 8.5-7.5.

The Eagles and India Yogis have both won all three of their matches and sit atop the Eastern Division. They will play in week sevenin what should be an exciting match.

3. The Sweden Wasabis use the PRO Chess League to create exciting live events in Sweden.

Every week, the Sweden Wasabis set up live events for their fans, and these events have been very well attended. Here is the Wasabis' manager Birger Wenzel breaking it down:

This is one of the goals of the PRO Chess League, not only to create exciting chess for fans online, but also to bring communities and fans together in a live setting.

4. The Saint Louis Arch Bishops are not invincible.

When the ratings cap was removed, many assumed the Arch Bishops would waltz through their division unscathed, but the Chicago Wind almost made those critics eat their words. After three rounds, the match was tied 6-6, with the resilt hanging in the balance until the final round, with the Arch Bishops taking a narrow 8.5-7.5 win. 

The most dramatic moment of the match came when super-grandmaster Wesley So missed a fork in time trouble:

The recipient of that blunder was GM Illia Nyzhnyk, who scored an incredible 3.5/4 against a team of three super-GMs.

However in the end it was still not quite enough, as Fabiano Caruana nailed down the victory in the final round with a smooth win over Puzzle Rush champ GM Ray Robson:

Caruana won the game with 45. Rxe7, distracting the defender of the f3 rook.

Caruana is coming off a stellar performance, winning Tata Steel Chess with a score of 10/13, a full two points clear of Magnus Carlsen.Caruana will hope to build on that success as the PRO Chess League season matures.

5. There were two major upsets as Norway and Croatia won their first matches against undefeated teams.

Not only did the Norway Gnomes and Croatia Bulldogs get their first wins of the season; they did it against strong teams and they both had emotional celebrations during their live stream.

Croatia, known as the "team of IMs," made it through the PRO Chess League qualifier as massive underdogs, and they proved this week that their IMs are very strong in rapid time controls. The Turkey Knights have had one win and one draw so far this PCL season, but the Bulldogs finally scored their first win of the season against the lackluster Turkish team.

Here is Vjekoslav Nemec, the ringleader of the Bulldogs, celebrating the victory:

Meanwhile, the Germany Bears were mopping up the competition in the Central, and French manager Kevin Bordi even admitted that they were the only other team to fear in the division. The Norway Gnomes didn't fear the Bears this week, as after a last-minute win by IM Hans Niemann, the Bears no longer found themselves undefeated, and the Gnomes tallied their first win of the season. Here is Niemann getting pumped up after his huge win:

It was a topsy-turvy game:

Hungry for more enticing story lines from the 2020 PRO Chess League season? Tune in Wednesday, January 29 at 5:45 a.m. PST on Chess.com/TV for all the action from the Eastern Division and check the PRO Chess League's official site for more information on the world's only truly global online chess league.

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