Sunday, January 6
San Francisco Mechanics - PRO Chess League
Photos: GM Shankland (left, credit St. Louis CC) and GM Naroditsky (right, credit Llada).
The Professional Rapid Online (PRO) Chess League returns to action this week on the Chess.com live server. The Bay Area is fortunate to have two strong teams in this worldwide competition. They battle in the Pacific Division against squads from San Diego, Seattle, Minnesota, Dallas, Australia and Chengdu (China). Each week, usually on Tuesday evenings, four team members rated under 2500 average each play four online games with the opposition at G/15 time control. After ten weeks, the top four teams in each Division advance to the league playoffs!
Mechanics' Institute and the Berkeley Chess School. After failing to qualify for the inaugural season, the Mechanics took top honors in the league qualifier last November. The franchise actually has an extensive online history as one of the eight founding clubs of the now-defunct US Chess League. The Mechanics even brought home the USCL championship in 2006, led by a fearless young master who earned first team All Star honors on board 4!
That young master became the 2017 US Champion and is currently ranked #27 in the World. Sam Shankland will lead his hometown club after returning from Holland, where he faces Magnus Carlsen at the Tata Steel Masters beginning on Saturday. Fear not, San Francisco features five other Grandmasters, including child prodigy Parimarjan Negi of India and local superstar Daniel Naroditsky, who both studied at Stanford University. GM Vinay Bhat and GM Steven Zierk also sharpened their skills as juniors in the Bay Area and eagerly represent the Mechanics. The final Grandmaster is free agent Yannick Gozzoli of France, one of the 2018 co-national champions (check out this interview).
The roster includes two International Masters and a quintet of nationally ranked juniors who frequent tournaments at either the San Francisco or Berkeley clubs. IM Yian Liou and IM John Donaldson participated on the USCL teams of the past decade. These two veterans are reinforced by teenagers IM-elect Andrew Hong, IM-elect Ladia Jirasek and three other masters. Expect the Mechanics to spread weekly assignments around to give all the opportunity to shine.
San Francisco kicks off the season against their regional rivals, the San Jose Hackers. Hoping for a strong start, they unveil a triple GM lineup for Week 1: GM Naroditsky, GM Gozzoli, GM Bhat and FM Ezra Chambers. Check out the action on Tuesday evening starting at 5:25PM!
While this writer enthusiastically supports both Bay Area squads in the league, his true allegiance remains with three former students (GM Naroditsky, GM Zierk and IM Liou) plus several longtime friends who play for the Mechanics. Let's go San Francisco! Fix all those cars!