PRO Chess League Regular Season Complete

by admin on February 23, 2017

Wow, that was fast! It seems like just yesterday that I was writing a post about the first week of the PRO Chess League. Now the season is already over! That’s because it was only seven weeks long.

Next week the playoffs will begin, and for people who haven’t been paying attention previously, this might be a good time to start. The playoff teams are (listed by seed order):


  1. Montreal ChessBrahs
  2. Buenos Aires Krakens
  3. Toronto Dragons
  4. Montclair Sopranos
  5. Philadelphia Inventors
  6. Miami Champions


  1. St. Louis Arch Bishops
  2. Webster Windmills
  3. Dallas Destiny
  4. San Diego Surfers
  5. Rio Grande Ospreys
  6. San Jose Hackers


  1. Marseilles Migraines
  2. Stockholm Snowballs
  3. Amsterdam Mosquitos
  4. Cannes Blockbusters
  5. London Lions
  6. London Towers


  1. Delhi Dynamite
  2. Budapest Gambit
  3. Gorky Stormbringers
  4. Norway Gnomes
  5. Mumbai Movers
  6. Riga Magicians

In the playoffs, as in U.S. football, the top two teams in each division will get a bye, so next week’s pairings will be #3 versus #6 and #4 versus #5 in each division.

Some quick and superficial comments: St. Louis, Webster, and Montreal seem to be the class of the league so far, as the only teams with 6-1 records. San Diego, lurking at #4 in the Pacific Division, also deserves some mention. They actually started out 5-0 but lost a heartbreaker, 8½-7½, against St. Louis. Then they tied Dallas in the last week. Both St. Louis and Dallas are former winners of the U.S. Chess League (the predecessor of the PRO Chess League). The Pacific Division was extremely competitive this year, and any of those four teams could win the title.

In the two European divisions, it’s interesting that Norway barely made the playoffs with a 3½-3½ record, even though they have Magnus Carlsen on first board. Part of the reason, of course, is that Carlsen didn’t even play in the first four weeks. But I imagine he will be participating throughout the playoffs, so they could be a little bit stronger than their record shows. On the other hand, in team matches with a rating ceiling, it’s very often the fourth board that is the most important. That’s where you need strong young players who can play above their rating.

A few comments about the quality of the league, now that it has more of a track record: A major problem for developing a fan base was the lack of easily accessible information about the league — the players, the standings, the games, the stories. The TV coverage was outstanding, but for people like me who don’t have time to spend several hours on Wednesday watching the matches, it was really hard to keep track of what was happening. It’s frustrating for me to read comments like “What a great game last night between Mamedyarov and So!” but I have no way to actually play through the game. The league needs to make major upgrades in this area for next year, and it doesn’t seem as if it should be that hard. Perhaps they should take some of the prize money and re-allocate it to hire a webmaster and a statistician?

Some other problems could have been expected and aren’t worth losing too much sleep about. One team dropped out midseason. I would actually spin that differently: only one team dropped out, and the league pulled off the miraculous logistics of keeping everything going on schedule, on five different continents. Also, there was a cheating scandal, and a relatively significant one. The match between San Jose and the Las Vegas Desert Rats initially ended 8½-7½ in Las Vegas’ favor, but then two of the Desert Rats’ wins were overturned for reasons of cheating. Not only did that flip the result of the match, it also flipped which team won the last playoff spot in the Pacific Division. If the original result had stood, then Las Vegas would have made the playoffs.

I was sorry to hear about this scandal because I have friends on both teams. I’m sure that my friend on the Las Vegas team had nothing to do with the cheating.

I do wish that the league were more transparent about the nature of the cheating, given the fact that it decided a match and changed the playoffs. In the (U.S.) National Football League, when Tom Brady was suspended four games for a form of cheating, everybody knew why. But I have not been able to find any official explanation from the PRO Chess League of what happened in the two overturned games. I imagine that doesn’t want to say too much about it because they want to keep their cheating-detection algorithms hidden. But I wish somebody would tell them that “security through obscurity” never works in the long run. See Wikipedia: “Security experts have rejected this view as far back as 1851, and advise that obscurity should never be the only security mechanism.”


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

paul B. February 23, 2017 at 1:13 pm

The NFL (not my favorite sport because sports shouldn’t cause brain damage) has a web site where every game has a highlight reel of 5 to 10 minutes. Pro chess needs that – a 10 minute summary of the game with incisive commentary – “Dana McKenzie is choking, folks, the Morra Gambit has him on the ropes; he can’t decide if he should take the pawn. What else can you expect from a guy who believes in imaginary numbers?”


Todd Bryant February 23, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Dana, check out this cool combination from the league by my friend, local boy genius Raven Sturt:


Dan Schmidt February 24, 2017 at 5:13 am

100% agreed on needing a real website, although I realize that it probably costs money that they don’t have. I was pretty excited about the league, but once I found out that all the information about it was scattered throughout and Facebook in random individual posts, my interest waned (I didn’t really end up following it at all in the end). Something as simple as the old USCL website that I could return to every week to check standings, matchups, etc., would have made a big difference for me.


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