Friday, September 24 proved to be one of the most anticipated and exciting days of the year for chess fans – and the 2021 PRO Chess League Arena Royale Final did not disappoint!
As those who followed the previous days of the event know, the finalists were the Saint Louis Arch Bishops and the Russia Wizards. These two were among the highest rated teams of the event, so it was a joy to watch them clash in the final game.
But there was even more exciting chess: the third place finish between the California Unicorns and the India Yogis featured two incredibly strong teams full of young talented participants.
Agitated? Let’s dive in and see how the day went!
The PRO Chess League Arena Royale takes place September 16-24 and offers over $100,000 in prizes. Teams compete in a series of club arenas and competitions to advance and ultimately win the title of PRO Chess League Arena Royale Champion 2021. Matches and commentary are broadcast on Chess.com/tv.
Live report of the final. Watch all live coverage at chess.com/tv
Match for Third Place: Yogis Beat Unicorns
The California Unicorns and India Yogis faced each other in a battle for third place. As in the semifinals, the teams played four rounds so that each player from the California team would compete against each player from the Indian team.
The first round saw two draws and one win for each team: GM Daniel Naroditsky scored a full point against GM Raunak Sadhwani, while GM Aravindh Chithambaram won his match against GM Zviad Izoria. The other two games, which pitted the California team’s players GM Baadur Jobava and IM Christopher Yoo against GM’s Karthikeyan Murali and Vidit Gujrathi respectively, were drawn. So the round was drawn, 2-2.
However, in the next round, the India Yogis took the lead with a convincing 3-1 victory: Chithambaram defeated Naroditsky, Sadhwani defeated Izoria and Vidit defeated Jobava. However, Yoo managed to brighten the day for his team by scoring a full point against Murali.
In round three, which saw three deciding matches (a very brawl so far, right?), the Yogis came out on top again: Murali outweighed Naroditsky and Chithambaram defeated Yoo to take his third win in a row. Once again the Unicorns managed to strike back on one board: Jobava defeated Sadhwani. However, the final score of 2.5-1.5 should have appeased Yogis fans.
As a result, the India Yogis won third place in a very difficult event, which is quite a fantastic achievement for any team. Congratulations to them, there was a lot of great chess along the way!
Final: Russia Wizards Kill the Archbishops of Saint Louis
In the Online Olympiad, which ended just two weeks ago, Russia faced the US in the final and went on to win. Therefore, it seems quite interesting that in the final of this online event, a Russian team also faced an American team! Would history repeat itself this time?
In the first round of the match, Russia started convincingly with a 3-1 score: GM Alexey Sarana defeated the world’s second best player GM Fabiano Caruana, giving the Russian team a huge lead. That game was really something: first Sarana missed a win, then she lost completely, and then Caruana…blunted a checkmate in one move. We’ll check it out below!
GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, who is about to face GM Magnus Carlsen in the FIDE World Championship Match later this year, supported his teammate by also taking a win against GM Jeffery Xiong. The other two games were tied, giving Russia a comfortable win in the round.
The next round, the same players, GM’s Sarana and GM Nepomniachtchi, brought their team another win as they both won their matches against GM’s Wesley So and Leinier Dominguez. Xiong minimized damage to the Arch Bishops by beating GM Evgeny Tomashevsky, but since the remaining fourth game was tied, Russia won the round again: 2.5-1.5.
They generally say that to win a team event, having two players in great shape is usually good enough. Well, Russia had just that: in round three, GM’s Sarana and Nepomniachtchi both won again! They defeated So and Dominguez respectively. This time, however, the St.Louis team did not lose the round as Caruana and Xiong helped their teammates out by beating Tomashevsky and GM Maxim Chigaev.
By the time the third round was over, the outcome of the final was clear: Russia had won.
However, the Arch Bishops put up a great fight in the final round and went on to win 2.5-1.5, this time drawing three games, while So defeated Tomashevsky.
Russia celebrates another brilliant victory, while the Archbishops of Saint Louis (who led the way in this event) had to settle for second place.
The Russian fans should definitely thank GMs Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alexey Sarana, who each scored a whopping 3.5/4 and were essentially the ones to win the final for the team. Sarana, in particular, has done a fantastic job: his classic rating of 2635 is a very strong player, but to beat Caruana, So and Dominguez in three consecutive games is an achievement that any player in the world would be very proud of. A great achievement!
Now let’s take a look at that really dramatic first round match between GM’s Sarana and Caruana.
We hope you enjoyed the coverage of the final, and stay tuned for future events!