The league stage had nine matches including two special matches, which lasted longer than a usual match and consisted of inter-divisional games. There were four divisions and the top four teams from each division qualified for the playoffs. The bottom two teams were relegated from the league and would now have to compete in the next season's qualifier event to win another spot in 2019. The fifth and sixth-placed team got a cushion through a direct entry into the third season.
The playoffs started on March 13th and had some of the fiercest competitions. The shocker of the day was that the Norway Gnomes led by World Champion Magnus Carlsen did not make it to the Play-offs as they finished fifth. Hikaru Nakamura's Seattle Sluggers didn't qualify as well. The very famous Montreal Chessbrahs, who have popularised themselves through their original stream shows, did not get a direct entry to 2019.
In the playoffs, the two Indian teams - the Mumbai Movers and the Delhi Dynamite - clashed it out together. They had finished third and second respectively in the league stage. The contest was epic as the score-line read the narrowest of wins possible in this format. What was interesting was the fact that the three highest rated Indians- Anand, Harikrishna, and Gujrathi- battled it out live. The Dynamite lost by a point in the much talked about All-Indian clash.(7.5-8.5 in Mover's favour).
The Dynamite only needed a draw(8-8) to go through to the next play-off, which would give them a final chance to reach the highly anticipated Finale in San Fransisco. There was immense drama and action in the duel. Anand and Vidit both scored 3 points each. Whereas Harikrishna scored 3 and Abhijeet Gupta scored 2.5. Abhijeet Gupta had a remarkable outing as he drew against Anand. However, in the end, Gupta lost to Vidit when the latter sacrificed an exchange and won a beautiful game.
The Movers played the Armenian Eagles in the second playoff. They lost to the Eagles as the Eagles managed to clinch an 8-8 draw that was sufficient for them to advance to the finale as they had won the league stage.
The finale, which is a one-of-a-kind e-sports event in San Fransisco, will be held from April 7-8. The four teams to have qualified are the Chengdu Pandas, the Armenian Eagles, the Saint Louis Arch Bishops(they have the Candidates winner and World Championship,2018 challenger Fabiano Caruana on their squad), and the Ljubljana Direwolves. These teams will first compete in the semi-final round and the two winning teams will compete in the final. The third and fourth place encounter will also take place.
This live event is the first ever in the world of chess. With free admission for all the fans to watch the games live and the live streaming by IM Danny Rensch and the others, one just can't wait to see all the action.
League Commissioner Greg Shahade must be proud to have seen his venture grow this big. With a total prize fund of more than 56,000 USD, one can only see the league going places in the future.
All eyes are now set on the finale weekend. May the best team win!