Last week’s PRO Chess League action has set the tone for the 2020 season. While teams like the Saint Louis Arch Bishops and the Russia Wizards look to improve on their opening-week wins, teams such as the China Pandas and Hungary Hunters both enter the season’s second week needing wins to rebound from tough losses last week.
This week’s action will start on Monday, Jan. 13, with the Western Division, while the Central and Eastern Divisions will both be in play on Wednesday, Jan. 15, on Chess.com/TV.
All teams have now released their lineups for week two, and with many so many top players competing, this preview picks the three top matches to follow.
1. Chicago Wind vs. California Unicorns (Monday, Jan. 13, 12:45 p.m. PST)
Fewer than 24 hours after beating Dimitrios Ladopoulos, the newly crowned Puzzle Battle world champion Ray Robson will have his biggest test of the PRO Chess League season so far. After scoring a perfect 4/4 last week against the Brazil Capybaras, Robson will face the Unicorns’ Sam Shankland, Alexey Sarana, and Daniel Naroditsky in consecutive games.
The California Unicorns desperately need a win. After losing to the Canada Chessbrahs last week, they don’t have much time to turn the season around. Remember, the Unicorns still have both New York and California on the schedule—so another loss could seriously damage their playoff hopes. If Robson’s Chicago Wind manages to win, it could take the Western Division lead.
2. China Pandas vs. Armenia Eagles (Wednesday, Jan. 15, 5:45 a.m. PST)
The China Pandas need to beat Armenia if they want to claim the Eastern Division’s top spot. Following last week’s loss to Russia, the Pandas have made significant changes—Li Chao returns to the lineup on second board, and Li Di, the Summer Series phenom, will take the fourth board.
This match will be the third time these rivals have faced head-to-head, and both of their previous matches went down to the wire. While the Pandas bested the Eagles in last year’s third-place match, Armenia still has the ultimate trump card: the 2018 PRO Chess League title.
Will Wednesday’s prime-time test live up to expectations? If the Armenia Eagles are to win, they will have to do so without Shant Sargsyan, who scored a perfect 4/4 in last week’s contest against Hungary.
3. Norway Gnomes vs. France Roosters (Wednesday, Jan. 15, 12:30 p.m. PST)
After avoiding an upset last week against Poland, the France Roosters and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will look to get a statement win against Jon Ludvig Hammer’s Norway Gnomes. Former London Lions star Romain Edouard will make his debut for the French team on the fourth board, rounding out a 2689-average rating for the Roosters.
After losing to Sweden last week, the Gnomes have upgraded their second board by bringing in GM Srinath Narayanan. The Gnomes, one of three teams fielding two or more international masters in their lineups, have Hans Niemann and Lars Oskar Hauge on their two bottom boards.
Fantasy PRO Chess League Continues
This year the PRO Chess League is raising the stakes with its Fantasy Contest that offers weekly cash prizes and even more opportunities to win. Every week will have three contests, one for each division. The first-place finisher in each contest will win a three-month diamond Chess.com membership, and a perfect submission in any contest will win up to $100, so make sure to complete your three submissions every week.