PRO Chess League: Bringing Chess into Mainstream Sports Culture
In this piece, I would like to delve deeper into various aspects of the league, and its potential to revolutionize the game of chess.
Let’s start with the basic facts. The league is comprised of 48 teams representing five continents. The whopping $50,000 prize fund with $20,000 to the first place team has attracted the world’s top players. The Norway Gnomes boasts the league’s top player, reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Additionally, the top three American players (Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, and Hikaru Nakamura) are competing.
In the six-week regular season, teams face off across five divisions grouped by time zone and global region. Matches are played on Chess.com, with each team fielding four players. In an “all-play-all” format, the four players on one team play every other player on the opposing team, for a total of 16 rapid games in each match. The team to score 8.5 game points or better wins the match.
The season opener on Jan. 11 featured over ten hours of chess. Matches spanned from morning, for European divisions, to late in the evening for U.S. divisions. Chess.com produced a highly entertaining broadcast throughout the day, featuring an array of commentators who never failed to miss a beat of the action.
St. Louis is lucky enough to have two teams to cheer for in the PRO Chess League’s inaugural season. Grandmaster Wesley So, ranked fourth in the world, spearheads the lineup for the Saint Louis Archbishops. Saint Louis University grandmasters Yaroslav Zherebukh, Dariusz Swiercz, Alex Rambaldi and coach Alejandro Ramirez support the lineup to make the Archbishops an absolute powerhouse. Having defeated the Dallas Destiny in the first week in a 9.5-6.5 victory, the Archbishops are considered one of the favorites to win their division.
The Webster Windmills are propelled by the Pan-American Collegiate Champions from Webster University. The team lineup features several strong grandmasters, including US Olympian Ray Robson. As a team manager and player for the Windmills, I am thrilled to be a part of the league. Despite a disappointing loss in week 1 against the San Jose Hackers, we are ready to bounce back in week two.
By the time this article is published, the Windmills and Archbishops will have faced each other Wednesday evening in a classic crosstown showdown. May the best team win!
Thanks to the rise in popularity of online and rapid chess, the PRO Chess League has the potential to dramatically change chess culture. Because chess is traditionally an individual and slow game, it has always been a challenge to make the game more exciting to watch (especially for non-chess players). The fast-paced team format of the PRO Chess league aims to make chess dramatically more thrilling for fans and players alike. Having watched Chess.com’s live show in week one, I wouldn’t be surprised if the league attracts corporate sponsors in the near future. While it’s hard to say whether chess will ever become as popular as major sports, I wouldn’t be surprised if the PRO Chess league creates a popularity surge in chess in the years to come.
To learn more about the Pro Chess League and follow the live action, visit prochessleague.com.
Eric Rosen is an International Master and a member of the Webster University Chess Team. In 2011, he won the National K-12 Championships with a perfect 7/7 score. In addition to being an active tournament player, Rosen coaches students from all over the world via the internet.