Magnus Carlsen has now scored 11/12 after posting a perfect 4/4 to give the Canada Chessbrahs victory over the Garden State Passers, despite team captain Eric Hansen scoring only 0.5/4. Elsewhere in Week 3 of the Pro Chess League the Indian Yogis, featuring siblings Praggnanandhaa and Vaishali, have already qualified for the Playoffs with three wins, while the Charlotte Cobras are eliminated after three losses.
At the time of writing we’re halfway through Week 3 of the Pro Chess League, a 16-team rapid event on Chess.com where each member of a 4-player line-up plays each member of the opposing line-up over four rounds of games.
This is how the first round of games looks midway through Week 3 of the Pro Chess League
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Week 3 is where things begin to get serious, since teams with three wins go straight to the 8-team Playoffs in May, while teams with three losses are out.
The first team to make the playoffs was the Indian Yogis, who overcame the Levitov Wizards 9.5:6.5. Once again the team’s lowest-rated player, Vaishali, was a star, beating both Valentina Gunina and the Wizard’s top board, Daniil Dubov.
The first team eliminated was the Charlotte Cobras, who lost 11:5 to the Spanish Maniac Shrimps, for whom Eduardo Iturrizaga starred with 4/4 — and 8/9 across the two matches he’s played.
The remaining two matches on Tuesday and Wednesday were between teams that had won and lost one match, so could neither qualify nor be knocked out in Week 3.
Both matches were decided by the narrowest of margins, with the Norway Gnomes, fielding three debutants, coming from behind to defeat the Brazil Capybaras. David Howell scored an unbeaten 3/4 and showed how much he cared by his rection to his first win.
Pavel Eljanov did even better for the Gnomes with 3.5/4, but things could have gone very differently, since Pavel managed to win a rook endgame two pawns down against Luis Supi, who sacrificed his rook for a seemingly unstoppable b-pawn.
It was a huge blunder, however, since 51…Kc3! threatened checkmate, and after 52.Kb1 Rb2+ the b-pawn was stopped in its tracks.
The finishing touch was applied by WIM Chelsie Monica, who, after three losses, won a crucial game against Irina Bulmaga.
The most anticipated match, however, promised a clash between the two stars of the tournament so far, Sam Sevian, on 7.5/8 for the Garden State Passers, and Magnus Carlsen, on 7/8 for the Canada Chessbrahs after seven wins and missing mate-in-3 in the one loss to Vidit.
Sure enough, Magnus did Magnus things as he beat Carissa Yip, Abhimanyu Mishra, Olexandr Bortnyk and then finally Sam Sevian himself for a perfect day at the office, even if he described it in slightly different terms.
As for me, I think I played pretty mediocre chess, but that’s fine. I got it done!
Magnus had some shaky moments, for instance, when with 49.Be5! Carissa Yip could have threatened a checkmating attack with Rf6+ and Ra7+ to follow.
Sam Sevian went into the final round of games against Magnus after suffering his first loss of the event, to Ivan Saric, but it seems it was a rare case of resigning in a drawn position!
Anish is referring to the fact that after 63…g2! 64.Rf3 Kg4 and e.g. 65.Rf8, it looks as though White is winning.
65…g1=Q is met by 66.Rg8+, winning the new queen. However, the underpromotion to a knight, 65…g1=N+!, comes with check, and saves the day, since after the king moves the knight can jump away from the g1-square.
In the key match-up against Sam, Magnus played the French Defence, though he didn't give a ringing endorsement of that opening.
If you’re not well-prepared as Black, as I clearly wasn’t today, then your position from the opening is probably going to be pretty bad, but it’s going to be a complicated kind of bad where you can get counterchances.
20…a5!? was a bold idea by Magnus, though objectively speaking it may have been a losing move.
21.f5! was strong, but Magnus explained his strategy:
At some point I think he made it a little bit difficult for himself, in that he either has to give mate or he’s just worse. In those positions, even if your position is good, you can easily make mistakes.
21.Bxb5!? was already a step in the wrong direction, and Carlsen’s plan of demolishing the queenside came to fruition when he followed up with 24…a3!
It was downhill from there for White as Magnus went on to score his 11th win in 12 Pro Chess League games.
That was enough for match victory, but only just! Magnus explained what had gone right… and wrong, for his team!
It was good to help the team in this way, but I’ve got to say that the whole team today did a really good job, except Eric. He sucked, and he almost cost us the match, so shame on you, Eric!
Magnus was referring to Eric Hansen, who he described as “the manager, the boss, the godfather”. Eric had scored an underwhelming 0.5/4, less than 400-points lower-rated Maili-Jade Quellet, who managed to swindle Abhimanyu Mishra from a losing position.
The curiosity is that it could easily have been worse, since Eric had to rescue that half point from a lost position after Carissa Yip found the brilliant 21.Bg6!
The point is that 21…fxg6 runs into 22.Qxe6+! and 22…Be7 23.Qxc6+, or 22…Kf8 23.fxe5, while in the game after 21…Kf8 Carissa could pick up the h5-knight for free.
Ivan Saric was also crucial on his debut for the Chessbrahs, with Magnus talking about how he and Eric Hansen picked the team:
We had some discussions after our last couple of matches, and we thought that getting Ivan in would be really, really important, so I have to say he made a really good choice there, also considering the fact that he brought in Maili, who got us an important point. Unfortunately that meant that he had to play himself instead of Aryan [Tari], but that’s the way it is sometimes. I’m happy that we won today and we stay alive.
Ivan did have one close shave in the final game, against Olexandr Bortnyk, after 34…g5?
35.Rxc6! bxc6 36.Qd7! is crushing for White, e.g. with 36…Rf8 37.Qxe6+ and 38.Be5 next. In the game, however, after 35.Bg3? f4 Ivan was winning, and was able to force a draw since by then he knew that was all the team needed to clinch match victory.
With two wins, the Chessbrahs now only need to win one of the matches in Weeks 4 or 5 to reach the Playoffs. How is Magnus enjoying team chess?
No, it’s not fun! It can be fun sometimes, when your teammates are doing well, but mostly it’s a little bit frustrating, especially after last week. I was thinking, I’m never, ever going to play a match again. It’s obviously different, because you cannot control your fate in the same way.
Meanwhile Week 3 continues on Thursday with the Gotham Knights (Nakamura) and Shanghai Tigers (Wei Yi) fighting to reach the Playoffs, from 16:30 CET (7:30 am PT, 21:00 IST) on Thursday. One team from the Berlin Bears (Bluebaum) vs. the Saint Louis Arch Bishops (Caruana) will be eliminated in Friday's late match.
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