Arch Bishops, Blitz Move To Playoffs; Alice Lee Upsets Super-GM, Caruana Goes 4/4

The Saint Louis Arch Bishops and team Blitz advance to the Playoffs after winning their matches in week five of the 2023 Pro Chess League. They eliminated the Croatia Bulldogs and Canada Chessbrahs, respectively.

GM Fabiano Caruana was on fire in the first match as he racked up four points out of four games, perfection. FM Alice Lee also scored the upset of the season (again) by defeating GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac.

GMs Alexander Grischuk and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave showed up and showed out. They led their team to victory with 2.5 and 3 points respectively.

The final match of the season before the Playoffs will be on Friday, March 17, 2023, starting at 7:30 a.m. PT/16:30 CET. It will be the Garden State Passers vs. Team MGD1, and only one team can advance.


Saint Louis Arch Bishops 9 – 7 Croatia Bulldogs 

Caruana led the Arch Bishops with his perfect score, taking down every member of the opposing team, while Lee earned the upset of the season and nearly beat two grandmasters back to back.

The Arch Bishops took a two-point lead in round one after winning 3-1. The highlight of the round, and the match, was the upset of the season, as Lee took down the 2700-grandmaster Deac.

Although the experienced Romanian player seized a large advantage out of the opening, a misstep in the endgame made his life more difficult. In a “dynamically equal position,” according to the computer, he had to find a difficult defense, and when he didn’t Lee took her only chance to win the game.

Then, in round two, Lee achieved a winning position against GM Aleksandar Indjic. Can you find the winning move after 38.Rd2?

Black to move and win.

Indjic was able to draw the game despite playing down a piece for a long time, however. 

After holding an equal score in round two, the Bulldogs won round three by a point. It all came down to the final round, where either result was possible. 

The Arch Bishops led by a small margin going in, 6.5-5.5, but they won convincingly. Caruana scored his fourth victory in four games and secured match victory for his team.

In the following game, Caruana sacrificed the exchange for a powerful set of connected passed pawns. This is our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao below. It will be added soon.

The Arch Bishops make it to the Playoffs. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs earn $5,000 for reaching this stage.

Canada Chessbrahs 7 – 9 Blitz

GM Anish Giri replaced GM Magnus Carlsen on the Chessbrahs board one after the latter was reportedly sick. One cannot find bigger shoes to fill, and even if the Dutchman scored a perfect 4/4 it would not have made up for the rest of his team. 

The match was a slow burner compared to the previous one, and Blitz never really lost control as all four boards performed consistently. The Blitz bottom two boards, in particular, outperformed their counterparts.

Blitz won the first round by one point and there were no surprises in round two as all the favorites won, leaving the one-point difference unchanged.

Round three was where they pulled away, though, with a 3-1 score.

The opening in one of the games of this round displayed a decent bit of chess humor. GM Jorden van Foreest played an early …h5 against Grischuk.

Does this look familiar?

That’s right; he repeated Grischuk’s own opening against him, but with reversed colors.

The Russian grandmaster responded exactly the way Vachier-Lagrave did against him four years ago, by playing the Benko Gambit. (In a lecture I attended at the Marshall Chess Club last year, Vachier-Lagrave commented on this game: “The problem is the Benko is a terrible opening,” so he probably wouldn’t repeat this idea with Black). 

Although Grischuk was able to get a winning position in the game (scoring a moral victory for Benko players), the game ultimately ended in a draw.

GM Kateryna Lagno beat WGM Jennifer Yu on time, while IM Mahel Boyer defeated IM Shawn Rodrigue-Lemieux a few seconds later. Blitz was one point away from match victory ahead of the last round.

The turnaround was unlikely, but it seemed possible as all four boards entered time trouble in the final round. Rodrigue-Lemieux managed to recover from a lost position and even defeat Lagno, and Giri defeated Grischuk in 30 moves, but Mahel Boyer saved the day for Blitz after trading down to a winning pawn endgame against Yu. The match was over.

Grischuk pointed out in the interview that this was the first match their team won without blitz tiebreaks.

Grischuk spoke positively about his teammates: “Today we had a very… stable team. Everyone contributed greatly to the victory… . You really need all your four boards to score considerable points.”

Blitz moves on to the Playoffs while the Canada Chessbrahs end their season earning $5,000. 

Just one match remains; the last two teams will play for one spot in the Playoffs.

Standings | Week 5


 

The Pro Chess League (PCL) is the number-one online global chess league for teams from all over the world. The event features 16 teams playing rapid games for their piece of the $150,000 prize fund.

The main event will continue throughout March and features top players like GMs Magnus Carlsen, Daniel Naroditsky, and Hikaru Nakamura.


Previous coverage:



https://www.chess.com/news/view/2023-pcl-week-5-arch-bishops-blitz

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