A powerhouse during the regular season, the Gotham Knights, again impressed on Friday in the Arena Royale of the 2023 Pro Chess League, finishing in clear first, led by GM Vladimir Fedoseev.
This special event offered a unique opportunity for every member of every team to compete at once and the chance for teams that were previously knocked out in the regular season to get back into the action.
One such team, the Brazil Capybaras, came back to life in this tournament to finish in a very close second, led by the top overall scorer, GM Jose Martinez.
The Pro Chess League playoffs kick off on Thursday, May 11, 2023, starting at 7:30 a.m. PT/16:30 CET.
Even with their fearsome board one, GM Hikaru Nakamura, unable to play (due to his participation in the American Cup), the Gotham Knights finished in clear first. Their top four scorers, Fedoseev, GM Shamsiddin Vokhidov, IM Mykola Bortnyk, and GM Liem Le, scored a total of 239 points over the 2.5 hours of the tournament.
The Knights came through in the critical last hour, steadily climbing up the scoreboard from sixth place. As tournament clock tipped under half an hour left, the Knights wrestled with the Brazil Capybaras for first. After several lead changes, the Knight seized the top spot with 23 minutes left and soon stretched it to 10 points, holding it to the end.
Fedoseev led the team with the second-highest overall individual score of 77 points. In his penultimate game vs. GM Jose Ibarra, Fedoseev earned two critical points for his team with a comeback victory. Down an exchange for a pawn with his king struggling to find cover, the 28-year-old grandmaster built up a potent position on the queenside and even used his king to support his passed a-pawn in the middlegame.
After his last round draw vs. GM Fabiano Caruana, Fedoseev was so delighted by his team’s victory that he went out to his balcony to celebrate.
After the event, Fedoseev shared which of his games was most memorable: “I was leading the tournament with 71 points. It was 13 minutes until the end, and I lost… I blundered my queen. In the next game, I blundered my rook out of the opening and still managed to win this game… This was the most exciting moment for me because I was about to collapse at the end, and suddenly some life goes on at the end of the tournament.”
Here is his memorable rook blunder victory:
The rest of the team provided excellent support for Fedoseev, especially Vokhidov who had the second-highest score of the team. The 21-year-old Uzbek grandmaster won a key game vs. GM Haik Martirosyan with an exchange sacrifice to create a mighty passer.
If this is what the Gotham Knights can do―even without Nakamura―their opposition will have their hands full in the upcoming playoffs.
Despite not qualifying for the playoffs, the Capybaras were a ferocious addition to this tournament. They finished in close second, fighting to the very last moments and shrinking the Knights’ lead to just two points.
Their leader scorer, Martinez, was also the top scorer of the tournament with 80 points. One of his most exciting games was his crushing king attack vs. GM Mitrabha Guha in the Caro-Kann Advanced.
In the final minutes of the competition, Martinez leapt past Fedoseev on the individual scoreboard with a critical win vs. GM Christopher Yoo.
The Gotham Knights won $2000 for their victory. The Brazil Capybaras took home $1500 for second. The Indian Yogis finished third to win $1000, and the Levitov Chess Wizards finished fourth, earning $500.
Standings | Arena Royale
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.
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