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St. Louis boasts star-studded team for 2019 PRO Chess League season

The 2017 St. Louis Arch Bishops team at the closing ceremony of the U.S. Championships.
St. Louis Chess Club

The St. Louis Arch Bishops have had much success in the PRO (Professional Rapid Online) Chess League over the first two years of its existence.

After winning the 2017 league championship versus the Norway Gnomes, led by World Champion Magnus Carlsen, the Arch Bishops followed with a third-place finish in 2018 by defeating the Ljubljana Turtles.

The PRO Chess League is a four-against-four team competition played online at chess.com. Each player battles the opposing team’s four players. The first team to accumulate 8.5 out of the possible 16 points wins the match.

For each game, players start with 15 minutes on the clock and receive two additional seconds after every move. Most of the Arch Bishops play at the world-renowned St. Louis Chess Club but are not required to do so.

To begin their 2019 campaign, the Arch Bishops will square off against the London Lions on January 8, 2019, at 3:30 p.m., under the leadership of manager Mike Kummer.

Starting on the first board will be the number-two player in the world and reigning PRO Chess League MVP grandmaster (GM) Fabiano Caruana. Caruana is coming off a tremendous victory in the Grand Chess Tour finals, where he defeated fellow Ten 10 player GM Levon Aronian to finish the tour in third place.

Returning to the team after a one-year hiatus and starting on board two is the 2017 PRO Chess League MVP GM Wesley So.

Most teams would dream of having So as their paramount player, but in the “Chess Capital of America," St. Louis is fortunate to have two top-ten players. So was key for the Arch Bishops winning the 2017 season: He won nearly all his matches and scored perfectly during key matchups throughout the season.

Starting on the third board is international master (IM) Hans Moke Niemann. In December, Niemann tied for first in the tenth-grade division at the K-12 National Championship held in Orlando, Florida. While there, Niemann also crushed the K-12 Blitz National Championship, amassing a perfect 12 points in 12 games. Although Niemann lives in Connecticut, each team can play one free agent per match without incurring a penalty.

Returning to the team and starting on board four is Lindenwood University student national master (NM) Nicholas Rosenthal. After being an integral member of the 2017 winning squad, Rosenthal decided to play for his hometown team of Miami in 2018. But the Lindenwood Lion is hungry to get back into the playoffs with the Arch Bishops this year.

Also on the roster is the premier collegiate squad from St. Louis University (SLU).

  • winner of the third Millionaire Chess Tournament, GM Dariusz Swiercz;
  • star recruit from the Netherlands GM Benjamin Bok;
  • team veterans GM Cemil Can Ali Marandi and GM Francesco Rambaldi;
  • recent transfer to the U.S. Chess Federation from Iran, IM Dorsa Derakhshani;
  • IM Nikolas Theodorou, who has taken this city by storm winning his first four tournaments here.
  • SLU’s coach, and excellent recruiter, GM Alejandro Ramirez

The St. Louis squad rounds out with a bright bunch.
GM Var Akobian now makes his home here after living in Los Angeles. In 2007, Akobian was spotlighted on MTV’s “True Life” in an episode titled “I’m a Genius.” Another high I.Q. individual, IM Matt Larson, who studies at Yale, is the highest-rated St. Louis chess player ever. Right on Larson’s tail is national master (NM) Julian Proleiko, who has high ambitions to achieve the grandmaster title one day.

NM Forest Chen from Knoxville, Tennessee, graduated from the prestigious CCL Chess School and was a pivotal member in the team’s success last season. This year’s “secret weapon” is from Colorado: NM Josh Bloomer. He could end up being the difference in the Arch Bishops’ Championship run in 2019.

So with high hopes, we enter the 2019 PRO Chess League season. You can find more information and follow all of the games live at www.prochessleague.com.

International arbiter Mike Kummer is the manager of the St. Louis Arch Bishops and has officiated at major events including the U.S. Championship and the U.S. Women’s Championship.

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