European Chess Grandmasters earn their bread and butter by playing for clubs in leagues across Europe. Clubs hire grandmasters to play for their teams in the fight for the National Club Championships. As with soccer, members take great pride in their clubs and seek to hire the strongest players. It is not uncommon for a grandmaster to play for teams in the German, Dutch, French and Spanish leagues over the year, allowing them to earn a decent living wage.
While the U.S. boasts a large number of chess clubs, the country’s geographical dispersion across our huge nation has made it impossible to imitate a European League of weekend encounters. However, for many years, there has been an internet U.S. Chess League. For two years running, the Saint Louis Arch-Bishops have been Champions. The Arch-Bishops are sponsored by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (“the Club”).
Last year saw the birth of the PRO-Chess League, an internet start-up league funded by chess.com. Clubs from around the world competed in a regular season of match-ups. The Arch-Bishops won their division and made it to the playoffs competing against some of the best teams in the world.
Now the playoffs are down to the quarter finals and the Arch-Bishops have a tough opponent. Who are they? It's the crosstown rivals, the Webster Windmills.
It is an incredible irony that two of the most successful teams in the world both come from St. Louis. Webster University has earned a number of back-to-back-to-back Pan-American Collegiate Championships. To say that they have a young and hungry squad of top grandmasters is an understatement. The Windmills will be led by Ray Robson, a member of the victorious U.S. Gold Medal Olympiad Team. But wait, the franchise player for the Arch-Bishops, Wesley So, won both a team gold as well as an individual gold medal at the Olympics for the U.S. Not only that, but So is an MVP from the old U.S. Chess League. Pundits are divided as to which team will win and earn bragging rights to being “the best Club in St. Louis.”
The $50,000 in team prizes is sponsored by the chess.com internet site and fans can follow all the action in live, real time. The quarter finals will be played on March 15 and championship weekend will be March 25 and 26. Quarter final teams include the likes of the Norway Gnomes, led by World Champion Magnus Carlsen; the Marseille Migraines, led by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave; and the Montreal Chessbrahs led by Fabiano Caruana. Tune in to watch all the action at the chess.com website. Thrills and spills are guaranteed.
A four-time U.S. Champion and former World Championship contender, Yasser Seirawan was the dominant force in American chess in the 1980s. Seirawan is the current Grandmaster in residence at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and will be commentating for the upcoming U.S. Championships March 28 - April 10