Second round of the playoffs for the PRO Chess League. The first week (which I didn’t watch) must have been incredibly exciting, with none of the matches decided by more than 9½-6½. The San Jose Hackers, our curious mix of local and Azerbaijani talent, pulled off an exciting upset. As the #6 seed, they defeated the #3 seed in their division, the Dallas Destiny, 8½-7½.
In a match that was tense all the way, the Hackers and Destiny tied in round one, 2-2; tied in round two, 2-2; and then the Hackers pulled ahead in round three, 2½-1½. In round four they had to get at least 2 points, because the Destiny had draw odds by virtue of their higher seed. It all came down to a game by their most valuable player on fourth board, Ivan Ke, who had to win and did!
As I’ve said many times, the first boards get all the attention but the fourth boards often decide who wins and who loses. It’s an incredible advantage to have an expert who can beat masters and IMs.
This week the Hackers will face an even tougher challenge in the #2 seeded Webster Windmills. For the first time, I’ve been able to find the pairings online. (Probably they’ve been there every week, but I just didn’t know where to look. The league has done a poor job of getting information out to the public.) So here are the matchups for this week.
On paper (or on the screen) it looks pretty close. It would be foolish for me to make a prediction because, especially on the Webster side, I hardly know anything about the players. All I can say is that if Ivan Ke can score a half point against GMs Robson and Durarbayli, that will be a good sign for the Hackers. If he can score one point out of two against them, then my money would be on San Jose. Aside from that, the games I’m looking forward to the most are Nyzhnyk-Naroditsky (round one ) and Mamedyarov-Shimanov (round four).