In just a few weeks, PRO Chess League action will be heating up as the PRO Chess League Summer Series start on June 1. Fans of 16 PCL teams will join top chess professionals as they head to battle in a series of live club matches to determine the champions of the series, broadcast live on Twitch.tv/PROChessLeague.
Across Live Club Matches, Knockout Battles, and the Summer Series championship, each of the 16 invited teams will compete for its share of a $25,000 prize fund.
The 16 teams have been split into four groups for the PRO Chess League Summer Series. The top two teams from each group will automatically qualify for the Summer Series championship in August, followed by two additional third-place teams to be determined by a fan vote. To learn more about the PRO Chess League Summer Series, read the official information page.
Make sure to join your favorite team’s fan club so you can play alongside them in this summer’s Live Club Matches! Fans can play for more than one team throughout the PRO Chess League Summer Series, so be sure to join each team’s fan club that you wish to play for.
2019 PRO Chess League Summer Series | Group A
If we learned anything during PRO Chess League Championship weekend, its that Chengdu’s Zhang Di might be the best fourth board in the league. The 12-year-old, coached by teammates Li Chao and Wang Yue, beat several strong titled players throughout the season, most notably with his match-winning point against the Armenia Eagles in their third-place match. The Pandas’ roster features seven different grandmasters, including Ding Liren, who recently became the world’s third-highest-rated player.
San Diego Surfers
The 2018 Pacific Division regular-season champions look to rebound from a tough 2019 season which saw them finish last in the division. While San Diego will be looking to rebuild, all of the parts are in place for a successful Summer Series campaign. The Surfers will be counting on their talented youngsters, especially GM Michael Brown, who was awarded his grandmaster title this year. In addition to GMs Alexey Dreev and Elshan Moradiabadi, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan may look to make a splash after tying for second in the U.S. women’s championship in March.
Saint Louis Arch Bishops
The newly crowned PRO Chess League champions will kick off the 2019 Summer Series in a Pacific-heavy group. The Arch Bishops’ top stars need no introduction, but the team showed its depth when IM Nikolas Theodorou and NM Julian Proleiko both scored critical wins in last May’s championship match against Baden-Baden. That’s bad news for Chengdu, San Diego and San Francisco, because a team with players like Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So should already be a clear favorite to win the inaugural Summer Series.
San Francisco Mechanics
Despite a slow start to the 2019 PRO Chess League regular season, the San Francisco Mechanics barely missed out on the playoffs. Looking to make a statement entering the 2020 PRO Chess League season, expect Sam Shankland and Daniel Naroditsky to push the Mechanics in one of the toughest Summer Series groups. Chengdu and Saint Louis will be tough opponents, but should the Mechanics qualify for the Summer Series Championship, San Francisco could be a dark horse to win it all.
2019 PRO Chess League Summer Series | Group B
Baden-Baden may not have been the favorite heading into PRO Chess League championship weekend, but the Snowballs bested the Chengdu Pandas in overtime en route to a finals berth. Expect Georg Meier to lead the charge in this year’s Summer Series, but don’t be surprised if we see IM Vincent Keymer along the way. The 14-year-old not only beat Meier in the recent Grenke Chess Classic, but also drew Aronian and Svidler, and pushed Carlsen to the brink. Baden-Baden should be the favorite to advance from the group, but for now, three scrappy and ambitious teams stand in the way.
A heartbreaking final-week relegation sent the Raptors packing in 2019, but any team with both Francisco Vallejo Pons and Ruslan Ponomariov is not to be taken lightly. Since the end of the PRO Chess League regular season, Ponomariov successfully qualified for the 2019 Chess World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk by way of the European Individual Chess Championship last March. In the same month, Barcelona’s GM Hipolito Asis Gargatagli was officially awarded the grandmaster title. Keep an eye on the Barcelona Raptors as they prepare for the qualifiers and a possible Summer Series championship this August.
The Pawngrabbers may have been relegated in 2019, but the offseason could not be going better for the black and gold. In March, WGM Jennifer Yu won the U.S. women’s championship with an incredible 10/11 score, becoming the first teenager to win since 2000. From top board, GM Alexander Shabalov led the United States to another gold medal at the World Senior Championship in Greece, and the New York Marshalls’ phenom NM Grant Xu accepted the Pawngrabbers’ general manager position. Pittsburgh will use the PRO Chess League Summer Series as a litmus test to prepare for the qualifiers later this year.
The Puffins! The Puffins! The Puffins! Reykjavik’s IM Bragi Thorfinnsson produced one of the most memorable PRO Chess League moments ever in the opening week of the 2017 season, and the Puffins have been a fan favorite ever since. Despite their relegation in 2018, the Puffins are still quite strong, backed by GMs Johann Hjartarson, Helgi Olafsson and Hannes Stefansson. General manager FM Ingvar Johannesson (better known as Zibbit on Twitch), hopes to generate momentum heading into the qualifiers, as the Puffins add an interesting wrinkle to Group B.
2019 PRO Chess League Summer Series | Group C
The Eagles will be looking to reassert their PRO Chess League dominance after falling short in San Francisco. Armenia lost its first head-to-head match since February 7, 2018 (7-9 against the Volga Stormbringers) and lost consecutive matches for the first time in team history over PRO Chess League championship weekend. For the 2018 league champions, the first step to a second title will be to win Group C. The Eagles’ top players GMs Zaven Andriasian and Haik Martirosyan, as well as IM Shant Sargsyan, should be excited to take on familiar foes.
Don’t tell general manager GM Vlad Dobrov that the Eastern Division was ruled by just two teams in 2019. The Wizards proved to be the best Russian PRO Chess League team last season, and qualified for the postseason with relative ease. Moscow is loaded with top Russian talent, including Ian Nepomniachtchi, GM Sanan Sjugirov, GM Boris Savchenko, and GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. The Wizards will be looking to avenge their close round-of-16 loss against the Tbilisi Gentlemen in this summer’s event, and will have to beat Armenia if they hope to win the group.
Despite the emotional roller coaster that was the 2019 regular season for the Movers, Mumbai still managed to finish third in the Eastern Division, claiming a playoff spot. Since their round-of-16 loss against the Armenia Eagles, the Movers’ 12-year-old CM Aditya Mittal met the requirements to earn the international master title, which he wrote about in Chess.com’s featured blog of the month. Mumbai has a lot talent, but will be counting on Vidit Gujrathi, GM Adhiban Baskaran, and GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly to lead the way to Summer Series glory.
Sao Paulo Capybaras
Formally known as the Sao Paulo Gorillas, the Brazilian-based team looks to make its debut into PRO Chess League action at the Summer Series. Narrowly missing out in qualification for both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the Capybaras bring back GM Krikor Mekhitarian alongside top Brazilian players like GMs Rafael Leitão and Alexandr Fier. Since the end of his campaign for the Cannes Blitzstreams, Mekhitarian qualified for the 2019 Chess World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk.
2019 PRO Chess League Summer Series | Group D
After being eliminated by the Gnomes to end their 2019 campaign, Kevin Bordi’s Blitzstreams will have a rare second chance for revenge in the PRO Chess League Summer Series’ group stage. With Jan-Krzysztof Duda, GM Maxime Lagarde, GM Sebastien Maze, and GM Matthieu Cornette, Cannes is loaded with talent and should be one of the Summer Series favorites, despite the tough pairings early on.
After a heartbreaking loss to the Chengdu in the quarterfinals last season, the Minnesota Blizzard will be looking for revenge in the Summer Series’ “group of death.” Fans know the power of the balanced Blizzard lineup with names like GMs Fidel Corrales and Andrew Tang, but this spring Minnesota has had great results from its lesser-known players too. Last March, IM Renato Terry shared a Titled Tuesday first-place finish alongside Hikaru Nakamura and other talented grandmasters. IM Brandon Jacobson, who was a critical part of Minnesota’s epic comeback against San Francisco, has gained nearly 100 rating points since last January.
If not for a heroic performance from the Montclair Sopranos in the final week of the regular season, the Montreal Chessbrahs could have found themselves in the hunt for a 2019 PRO Chess League title. With players like GMs Ivan Saric, Robin van Kampen, and Eric Hansen, Montreal should be an immediate contender for the Summer Series Championship. To progress to their first playoff appearance since 2017, the Chessbrahs will need to pass through three other teams known for their streams. Will fans back the Canadians in what promises to be a challenging group?
After falling short of a PRO Chess League semifinal appearance in San Francisco, expect GM Jon Ludvig Hammer to make to most of the Norway Gnomes’ Summer Series. The Gnomes are loaded with young Norwegian talent. The 2017 world junior champion GM Aryan Tari joins GM Johan Salomon and GM Johan-Sebastian Christiansen, who recently qualified for the 2019 Chess World Cup with his strong performance at the recent European Championships. Like Minnesota, Norway also has a balanced roster and should make some noise in the group.
Let us know who you think will win the first-ever PRO Chess League Summer Series Championship in the comments! Who do you plan on playing for this summer? Find out how you can get involved in the PRO Chess League Summer Series by checking out the official information page.