This summer’s PRO Chess League Summer Series has been the season for fans. As teams fight for a coveted Summer Series championship spot, fans have made all of the difference powering their favorite teams in the Live Club Matches every week.
With the support of their fans, the Saint Louis Arch Bishops, Chengdu Pandas, Baden Baden Snowballs and Reykjavik Puffins have each clinched spots in August’s Summer Series championship. Both the San Francisco Mechanics and the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers have earned their spots in the August 17 Twitter vote, which will determine the tournament’s ninth and 10th seeds.
With Groups A and B complete, it’s time to look back and evaluate every team’s performance in the Summer Series so far. Did your favorite teams live up to the challenge? Check out the team report cards below:
Just learning about the Summer Series? There is still time to compete in Groups C and D to help your favorite teams reach the Summer Series championship, as your games will make the difference this summer. Check out the Group C and D previews below:
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. For the full event schedule, visit www.prochessleague.com/summerseries.html
2019 PRO Chess League Summer Series | Group A Standings
Outside of a tough Live Club Match loss to the Chengdu Pandas, the Arch Bishops’ fans did everything General Manager Mike Kummer could have asked for. Powered by GM Varuzhan Akobian, Saint Louis fans got to reminisce their US Chess League years while dominating a tough Group A field. By winning all three knockout battles, Akobian proved that he still has what it takes to lead the Arch Bishops, despite only playing seven games in 2019.
Saint Louis has options heading into the Summer Series championship in August. Will the Arch Bishops stick to their championship lineup? Only time will tell.
The Pandas finished a close second to Saint Louis, but they did so counting on their lower-rated players, IM Bao Qilin and Zhang Di—quite the accomplishment. Chengdu’s fans were the most dominant of any team in the Summer Series so far, blowing out each of their three opponents for nine points in the standings. Zhang Di built on his impressive 2019 resume by beating Akobian and drawing Naroditsky, showing that he is still a dangerous fourth-board option for Chengdu heading into next season.
For the Pandas, the real test starts in August, when their top players enter the fray in the Summer Series championship.
If it were not for a zero-point showing in the group’s second week, IM David Pruess‘ side might have its ticket to the Summer Series championship. Instead, the Mechanics will have to wait for the much-dreaded Twitter vote on August 17 to see if their third-place Group A finish was enough to make the postseason.
If San Francisco earns a spot in the playoffs, GMs Sam Shankland and Daniel Naroditsky will be a dangerous PRO Chess League tandem, but the Mechanics will need to find their answers on the lower boards if they want to progress. Before the Mechanics worry about that however, they will need to count on their fans one more time to make the cut.
San Diego got the toughest draw of all the PRO Chess League Summer Series teams, and while General Manager IM Keaton Kiewra probably wanted more than two points in Group A, he has exactly one goal for the Surfers this summer: Qualify for the 2020 PRO Chess League season. It is no secret that the Surfers struggled on fourth board last year, and if San Diego wants to earn its spot in the qualifiers, they need an answer—fast.
Rather than fight an uphill battle in Group A, Kiewra used the summer to test FM Alex Costello, NM Robert Shlyakhtenko and NM Derek Wu, and got promising results. San Diego still has work to do, but it has time before the qualifiers to build the perfect lineup.
2019 PRO Chess League Summer Series | Group B Standings
It took Pittsburgh beating Barcelona last week for the Snowballs to finally clinch their spot into the Summer Series championship. Baden Baden’s fan turnout was sub-optimal for most of the group stage, but GM Dmitrij Kollars and GM Georg Meier both won when it mattered most. If not for Kollars beating Shabalov to save their Live Club Match against Pittsburgh, or Meier beating Camallonga in the knockout battle last week, Baden Baden would likely not have made the cut for the postseason.
The Snowballs can now look forward to the Summer Series championship, where they will be a dangerous opponent for any team.
Last week, Reykjavik earned its first-ever PRO Chess League postseason berth after beating the Snowballs and taking third in the final knockout battle. None of the PRO Chess League’s featured pundits picked the Icelandic side to get this far, so just reaching the Summer Series championship is worthy of high marks.
It is important to remember how Reykjavik got here. Winning all three Live Club Matches earned nine of their 10 points, but their designated players scored a surprisingly low 2/15 across three weeks. For the Puffins to move deeper into the tournament, they will need strong showings from GMs Helgi Gretarsson and Hannes Stefansson, who have yet to debut this Summer Series.
The Summer Series saw two different Pittsburgh teams in the group stage. After struggling in the opening week, the Pawngrabbers found their way into the tournament, building up to IM Tuan Minh Le’s perfect six-point day to secure a third-place finish. Pittsburgh’s fans peaked at the right time, helping them push past a tough Barcelona Raptors team in the final week.
While General Manager NM Grant Xu was likely eyeing a better finish in the “group of life,” he should be satisfied with a spot in the Twitter vote given Pittsburgh’s slow start. Pittsburgh clearly has talent with GMs Awonder Liang and Alexander Shabalov, but will “the black and gold” help them punch a ticket to the Summer Series championship on August 17?
It was certainly a disappointing finish for the Raptors given their strong start in the opening week. After GM Daniel Forcen Esteban scored five points for Barcelona, the Raptors were unable to build their momentum in the Live Club Matches. Unfortunately for the Spanish side, it simply played a surging Pittsburgh team at the wrong time.
While Barcelona’s Summer Series campaign has come to an end, the Raptors did have some proud moments, including building the biggest fan club in Group B, and throttling Baden Baden in the opening week. The Raptors will have their chance at redemption in this fall’s PRO Chess League qualifiers.
2019 PRO Chess League Summer Series | Group C Standings
Armenia Eagles: The math seems simple, right? Armenia won the PRO Chess League in 2018 and has won the Eastern Division in back-to-back years. Group C features a heavy Eastern Division presence with Armenia, Moscow and Mumbai, so the Summer Series’ group stage should be a cakewalk for the Eagles on paper.
If Reykjavik and Chengdu taught us anything, the ability to bring fans to matches each week is critical for Summer Series survival. Currently, Armenia has the lowest fan total of all 16 participating teams and could be in trouble heading into Saturday’s match-up with Mumbai.
While fans are betting on GM Zaven Andriasian to make a deep run, PRO Chess League pundits have started to leave Armenia out of their brackets altogether in favor of a new dark horse team.
Moscow Wizards: PRO Chess League pundits have been paying close attention to GM Vlad Dobrev’s side as a potential Cinderella team this summer. 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 have a tough schedule in Group C.
Mumbai Movers: As India’s lone representative this Summer Series, there is a lot of pressure on the Movers to do well and make the playoffs. If General Manager IM Nubairshah Shaikh wants his team to stay in the tournament, it has to break the curse and beat Armenia. The Eagles have beaten Mumbai four times in the past two years, and eliminated the Indian side from PRO Chess League championship contention in each of the past two seasons.
If the Movers can get past Armenia, its chances of making the Summer Series championship are fairly strong, as an evenly matched Moscow Wizards and fairly unknown Sao Paulo Capybaras team are ahead.
Sao Paulo Capybaras: Has anyone been paying attention to the PRO Chess League’s fastest-growing club? General Manager GM Krikor Sevag Mekhitarian has built a competitive roster, and with names like GMs Sandro Mareco, Alireza Firouzja and Andre Diamant, the Capybaras have a lot of options for potential lineups this summer.
The PRO Chess League’s first-ever Brazilian squad is already a favorite to win the group, but will have to get through established teams Armenia, Moscow and Mumbai first.
2019 PRO Chess League Summer Series | Group D Standings
Cannes Blitzstreams: Despite making the playoff every year since the PRO Chess League’s creation in 2017, Cannes has been left out of a lot of brackets. Why? Norway.
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 GMs Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Maxime Lagarde, Sebastien Maze and Matthieu Cornette, Cannes is loaded with talent and should be considered a Summer Series dark horse, despite the tough pairings early on.
Minnesota Blizzard: 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. Do the Blizzard have the fans to compete with Montreal or Norway?
Montreal Chessbrahs: Can the Chessbrahs make the playoffs? After reaching the PRO Chess League semifinal in 2017, the Canadian side has been extremely creative when it comes to finding new ways to miss the postseason. For General Manager GM Eric Hansen, this Summer Series seems like a perfect opportunity to break the curse.
Montreal will need players like GMs Ivan Saric and Robin van Kampen, but the biggest question is: Will fans back the Chessbrahs in the Summer Series’ toughest group?
Norway Gnomes: The Gnomes are a fan-favorite to win the Summer Series, but to get there, GM Jon Ludvig Hammer’s team will have to earn it. Should Norway make it through Montreal, Minnesota and Cannes, teams like the Saint Louis Arch Bishops and the Chengdu Pandas wait in Summer Series championship.
To make a deep run, Hammer will count on the 2017 world junior champion GM Aryan Tari, as well as GM Johan Salomon and GM Johan-Sebastian Christiansen. If Gnomes fans want to win their first PRO Chess League event, they will need to take the group stage one match at a time.