PRO Chess League Quarterfinals: St.Louis Archbishops Dominate

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Tuesday, the 21st of September, treated chess fans around the world to the quarterfinals of the Pro Chess League’s Arena Royale.

Before we take a look at how the event unfolded, you need to be aware of something: as you might have read, there were supposed to be three arena tournaments and a ladder knockout match, which would have determined the last semifinalist. However, the format has changed a bit—now, there was a large arena tournament with a total of eight teams and 48 players, from which the top three teams have qualified directly, while the fourth and fifth top-finishers had to play a knockout for the last spot.

In particular, the teams present were: Saint Louis Archbishops, Russia Wizards, California Unicorns, India Yogis, Canada Chessbrahs, Brazil Capybaras, Norway Gnomes, and France Roosters.

Let’s dive in and see how that went!

How to watch?
The PRO Chess League Arena Royale takes place Sept. 16-24 and features over $100,000 in prizes. Teams compete in a series of club arenas and matches to advance and ultimately win the title of 2021 PRO Chess League Arena Royale champion. Games and commentary will be broadcast on Chess.com/tv.
PRO Chess League Arena Royale


The Arena: 

Fans were looking forward both to the individual results and to the team ones.

As for individual ones, GM Hikaru Nakamura, the usual favorite of most online blitz and bullet events who was representing the team of Brazil Capybaras, dominated the field and scored 70 points. In second place we saw GM Wesley So, who has been playing for his usual team of St.Louis and who scored 66 points, while GM Ian Nepomniachtchi finished in third place with 64 points.

However, because this was an event where the total of individual results of the team members mattered, it is crucial to point out that the team of St.Louis Archbishops had their players grab fourth and fifth places (IM, who just got his last GM norm, Nikolas Theodorou with 60 points, and GM Jeffery Xiong with 58 points, respectively), which gave the team a huge boost.

The event produced a large number of interesting games of all kinds to look at, but I thought you might enjoy a quiet positional encounter this time. Let’s learn from this one!

As a result, the event was dominated by St.Louis Archbishops with a total team score of 294 points. The team was represented by GM So, IM Theodorou, GM Xiong, GM Hans Niemann and GM Fabiano Caruana. It is worth mentioning that GM Caruana, who is obviously one of the best players in the world, ended up scoring only 29 individual points, which landed him on the 28th individual place out of 30 in total, however, the rest of the team performed spectacularly!

The Russia Wizards got second place with a total of 246 team points, quite a bit less than the St.Louis team! Specifically, a huge part in its success was played by GM Nepomniachtchi, who had, as mentioned above, placed 3rd with 64 points. However, GM Evgeniy Tomashevskiy also scored very well (49 points and individual sixth place), while other teammates, namely GM Maxim Chigaev, GM Alexey Sarana, and GM Vladimir Fedoseev have also contributed considerably with 44, 34, and 30 points respectively.

Finally, in third place, we see the team California Unicorns, which owes its success to GM Daniel Naroditsky, who got 46 points and ninth individual place, GM Baadur Jobava (42 points), GM Georg Meier (40 points), IM Christopher Yoo (38 points), and IM Tuan Minh Le (34 points). Altogether, the players boasted a team score of 227 points.

Congratulations to all winners! 

The Ladder: 

As we know, the format of the event allows the top three teams to qualify automatically, while the fourth and the fifth place teams have to play a ladder match for the final spot. That was quite a bummer for the India Yogis, who got 224 points – just three points shy of the third place! However, the Canada Chessbrahs, who scored 192 points as a team, might not have had much to complain about, as they got a shot at qualifying for the Quarterfinals.

This was a ladder match, which essentially means a team member of team A faces a member of team B, and if he wins, he’ll face another member of team B, etc, until all of the team members of one of the teams are knocked out.

The team India Yogis was represented by GMs Nihal Sarin, R Praggnanandhaa, Raunak Sadhwani, and Vidit Gujrathi. On the other side, there was a team Canada Chessbrahs, with GMs Anish Giri, Velimir Ivic, Eric Hansen, and Jorden van Foreest.

GM Nihal Sarin PCL arena royale
GM Nihal Sarin picked up two crucial wins for the Yogis. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The match began with Vidit facing van Foreest, and saw Vidit win. Then Vidit faced Hansen and beat him as well. In the next encounter, he had to play Giri, who successfully managed to not get another member of the Canadian team eliminated, having instead outplayed Vidit. 

Giri went on to crush Sadhwani andPraggnanandhaa as well, at which point the Indian team seemed to be a large underdog, as they only had one player left, namely GM Sarin. What tension!

However, Sarin managed to completely turn the tables by beating both GM Giri (you would enjoy analyzing this dramatic encounter!) and the final player of the Canadian team, Ivic! 

As a result, the India Yogis have won the knockout to successfully grab the remaining fourth spot of the semifinals and make all of their fans extremely happy. It was a truly fascinating event to follow!


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