Who Will Be the 2018 PRO Chess Champions?

This weekend the PRO Chess League is jumping out of our computer screens into real life—The playoffs will culminate with a two-day Finals battle between the four division winners in San Francisco!

Let’s take a look at the four incredibly strong teams that qualified for the Finals.

One pattern you’ll notice is that each team has decided to field a top-heavy line-up with an underdog 4th board. The Armenia Eagles have the most balanced line-up, the only team where every player has a FIDE title.

Returning Champions

Saint Louis Arch Bishops

Atlantic Division Champions

Finals Line-Up:

Team Average Rating:

2468

While the Arch Bishops are the returning champions, only one player from last year’s winning final round line-up, Varuzhan Akobian, is playing in San Francisco. In addition, the team’s top seed and the player with the highest 2018 league performance rating, Fabiano Caruana, isn’t competing because he’s too busy leading the GRENKE Classic.

What does this mean for the Arch Bishops?

While Akobian brings his vast experience to the table, many hopes will be placed on GM Yaroslav Zherebukh, who turned in a nearly 2700 performance rating throughout the season. In addition, their fourth board, Forest Chen, is not to be underestimated, defeating two grandmasters in the quarterfinals. This leaves Dariusz Swiercz as the wild card as he’s only only competed one week in the entire season.

Top Seed

Chengdu Pandas

Pacific Division Champions

Finals Line-Up:

Team Average Rating:

2524

The top two boards of the Pandas’ line-up are no stranger to success in team events—Both were a part of the gold medalist Chinese team at the 2014 Olympiad, giving them a substantial advantage in terms of team strategy along with their lofty ratings. Both Xu Xiangya and Chu Ruotong have also been assets this season, each performing nearly 100 points above their ratings. I

n addition, including a female player on the team, Chu Ruotong, allows the Pandas to have a slightly higher rated line-up than their competitors.

Win, Win, Win

Armenia Eagles

Eastern Division Champions

Finals Line-Up:

GM Samvel Ter-Sahakyan

Performance Rating:

2528

Team Average Rating:

2484

What’s interesting about the Eagles is that they’ve won everything they’ve played in this season—I mean, everything. They won 1st in theEarly Qualifier to enter the league with a bang and then went on to top the Eastern Division in both the regular season and the postseason. Can anything stop them?

The Eagles have excellent chances because most of their line-up performance substantially above their ratings this season, especially fourth board, Artak Manukyan, who performed nearly 200 points above expectations.

Underdogs

Ljubljana Turtles

Central Division Champions

Finals Line-Up:

Team Average Rating:

2469

The Turtles beat the odds to get into the Finals, can they pull one more rabbit out of the hat? To win the Central Division, the Turtles had to take down the Marseille Migraines, led by GM Maxime Vachier, one of the strongest players in the world—An incredibly impressive feat.

As for the Turtles’ SF line-up, Top Seed Luka Lenic proved that he is capable of beating anyone  when he defeated Magnus Carlsen on Super Sunday. In addition, the Turtles’ fourth board, Luka Shuhala, has performed over 200 points higher than his modest 2114 rating, including a draw against MVL in the quarterfinals. Two players who will need to find their stride in SF are GM Jure Skoberne, who turned in a slightly performance slightly below his rating during the season, and GM Dusko Pavasovic, who’s performance was nearly 150 points under expectations.

Which team are you rooting for?


 

For more information on the PRO Chess Semifinals, check out:

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vanessa West is a regular writer and digital assistant for US Chess News. She won the 2017 Chess Journalist of the Year award.

You can follow her on Twitter: @Vanessa__West

 

 

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