Tomorrow the PRO Chess League’s third season takes off with half of the first-week matches on Tuesday, January 8. The other matches will follow on Thursday, January 10. The league has $50,000 in prizes and is stronger than ever, with five of the world’s top six players and almost half of all 2700 players participating.
“The first year it was kind of like an experiment. People didn’t know what to expect. The second year, the good teams kind of learn from the first year, worked on their strategies and the competition was much stronger; the teams were much better. I think this year it’s going to another level,” said the main organizer behind the PRO Chess League, IM Greg Shahade.
Shahade was interviewed in The Perpetual Chess Podcast last week, and in the first 20 minutes he gave lots of insights about the new season:
New Perpetual Pod! @GregShahade returns to preview the 2019 @PROChessLeague. Also:
– What is Greg’s dream W,C, format?
– Are 📚 still necessary to become 💪💪 at ♟️?
– + a bunch of nonsense about Crossfit, Greg singing, trash talking @GMJanGustafsson etc. https://t.co/pW5J8RIaGh
— Ben Johnson ( @Bennyficial1) January 4, 2019
So what will the new season look like? Well, some things remained the same, and some things changed.
- A total of 32 teams are divided into four divisions. In each division, the eight teams will play a match against all seven opponents between January 8 and March 14.
- In each of those matches the team consist of four players, with every member playing all four opposing team members. The time control is 15 minutes plus a 2-second increment.
- The top four teams in each division will advance to the playoffs, which will be played March 19-28.
- Once again a live final weekend will be organised, tentatively on May 4-5, 2019 at the Folsom Foundry in San Francisco again, but this awaits confirmation.
— US Chess ( @USChess) April 9, 2018
The moment the Armenia Eagles won the league last year.
- There will be regular matchups in the four different divisions not once a week, but twice. Expect most matches to take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. For instance, this week the Atlantic and Pacific divisions play on Tuesday, January 8 and the Eastern and Central divisions on Thursday, January 10.
- There’s a different point system. A match win gives a team 10 points in the standings (8.5 points required for a match win). A drawn match gives each point five points in the standings. Every game point gives a team one point in the standings. This makes it possible to have different formats seamlessly work.
- There will be three “round-robin weeks” where the format is different. Each team will have three matches that will consist of eight team round robins, in which more points are given out to the teams that finish at the top of the crosstable. Here, the time control will be slightly faster: 10 minutes plus a two-second increment.
This season will be incredibly strong. For instance, the numbers 2-6 in the January FIDE rating list of classical chess are all there: Fabiano Caruana (Saint Louis Arch Bishops), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (San Jose Hackers), Ding Liren (Chengu Pandas), Anish Giri (Montreal Chessbrahs) and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Marseille Migraines). 18 out of the 41 2700 players in the world have signed up.
2019 PRO Chess League | Top Players (September 2018 Ratings)
|1||GM||Shakhriyar Mamedyarov||San Jose Hackers||2820|
|2||GM||Ding Liren||Chengdu Pandas||2804|
|3||GM||Fabiano Caruana||Saint Louis Arch Bishops||2801|
|4||GM||Maxime Vachier-Lagrave||Marseille Migraines||2780|
|5||GM||Anish Giri||Montreal Chessbras||2780|
|6||GM||Wesley So||Saint Louis Arch Bishops||2776|
|7||GM||Yu Yangyi||Chengdu Pandas||2765|
|8||GM||Hikaru Nakamura||Seatlle Sluggers||2763|
|9||GM||Yan Nepomniachtchi||Moscow Phoenix||2763|
|10||GM||Harikrishna Pentala||Delhi Dynamite||2743|
|11||GM||Jan-Krzysztof Duda||Cannes Blockbusters||2739|
|12||GM||Le Quang Liem||Webster Windmills||2727|
|13||GM||Sam Shankland||San Francisco Mechanics||2722|
|14||GM||Francisco Vallejo Pons||Barcelona Raptors||2713|
|25||GM||Vladimir Fedoseev||Estonia Horses||2713|
|16||GM||Dmitry Andreikin||Volga Stormbringers||2712|
|17||GM||Vidit Gujrathi||Mumbai Movers||2711|
|18||GM||Pavel Eljanov||Miami Champions||2703|
|19||GM||Rauf Mamedov||San Jose Hackers||2699|
|20||GM||Gabriel Sargissian||Seattle Sluggers||2691|
(See the full list of players here.)
The top favorite this year is the team from America’s “chess capital,” the Saint Louis Arch Bishops. They won the first season but didn’t do so well in the second, and must have only one goal this year: to get back that title.
There’s not only Fabiano Caruana in the team, but also Wesley So. To make matters worse (for their opponents) they can have both of USA’s Olympic team members playing in a match, as their ratings are capped at 2700 which would allow e.g. another 2450 and a 2100 on boards three and four.
Another team that should do well is Chengdu Panda‘s. Alongside strong grandmasters like Yu Yangyi and Wang Yue, the Chinese superstar Ding Liren has been added to the roster this year.
The Seattle Sluggers can be mentioned here as well, with e.g. Hikaru Nakamura, Gabriel Sargissian and Tigran Petrosian in the line-up.
And what about last year’s winners, the Armenian Eagles? Well, it’s not a full Armenian team anymore. Besides e.g. GMs Zaven Andriasian, Haik Martirosyan and Aram Hakobyan, world junior U20 champion Parham Maghsoodloo of Iran is their free agent.
You can find all teams playing in the 2019 season here.
First week pairings
The pairings for the first week are out. Here they are, with the strongest players in the teams mentioned:
Tuesday, January 8, 2019:
- Atlantic Division: Saint Louis Arch Bishops (Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So) vs London Lions (Sergey Movsesian, Romain Edouard), New York Marshalls (Anton Demchenko, Sergey Azarov) vs Montclair Sopranos (Aleksandr Lenderman, Alireza Firouzja), Webster Windmills (Le Quang Liem, Ilia Nyzhnyk) vs Miami Champions (Sethuraman S.P., Eduardo Iturrizaga), Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers (Awonder Liang, Alexander Shabalov) vs Montreal Chessbrahs (Ivan Saric, Robin van Kampen).
- Pacific Division: San Francisco Mechanics (Daniel Naroditsky, Yannick Gozzoli) vs San Jose Hackers (Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Zviad Izoria), Seattle Sluggers (Hikaru Nakamura, Tigran Petrosian) vs San Diego Surfers (Alexey Dreev, Michael Brown), Australia Kangaroos (Aleksey Sarana, Anton Smirnov) vs Dallas Destiny (Zhou Jianchao, Conrad Holt), Chengdu Pandas (Ding Liren, Wang Yue) vs Minnesota Blizzard (Fidel Corrales, Mauricio Flores).
Thursday, January 10, 2019:
- Eastern Division: Volga Stormbringers (Dmitry Andreikin, Nodirbek Abdusattorov) vs Armenia Eagles (Zaven Andriasian, Haik Martirosyan), Moscow Wizards (Boris Savchenko, Vlad Dobrov) vs Moscow Phoenix (Pavel Ponkratov, Dmitry Kryavkin), Estonia Horses (Jaan Ehlvest, Ottomar Ladva) vs Mumbai Movers (Baskaran Adhiban, Puranik Abhimanyu), Tbilisi Gentlemen (Baadur Jobava, Davit Jojua) vs Delhi Dynamite (Nihal Sarin,
- Central Division: Amsterdam Mosquitoes (Wouter Spoelman, David Klein) vs Marseille Migraines (Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Etienne Bacrot), Baden-Baden Snowballs (Georg Meier, Kirill Alekseenko) vs Berlin Bears (Niclas Huschenbeth, Leon Mons), Barcelona Raptors (Hipolito Asis Gargatagli, Carles Diaz Camallonga) vs Ljubljana Turtles (Jure Borisek, Matej Sebenik), Norway Gnomes (Aryan Tari, Johan Salomon) vs Cannes Blitzstreams (Maxime Lagarde, Matthieu Cornette).
Also this year the PRO Chess League has its fantasy contest. Contestants get to choose 16 players for their team and their score is the total points that their 16 players score during the week.
Each week, the top three participants win Chess.com premium memberships, but if you pick the 16 players who have the best scores in their group, you will win the Commissioner’s Bounty prize of $10,000.
Find all info on the fantasy contest here.
How to watch
All events will be broadcast live on Twitch.tv/prochessleague and Chess.com/tv. The broadcast archives will be published on Youtube and Chess.com/videos.
The main commentators will be GM Robert Hess, IMs Danny Rensch and Anna Rudolf and WFM Alexandra Botez. Others will join. Viewers can also watch the games in Chess.com/live.
Find all important information on the 2019 PRO Chess League here, or visit the official website here.