The PRO Chess League started in 2017 as a world-level online rapid competition for the greatest minds in the globe. It stemmed from the United States Chess League, which had been in the running for the past few years.
Over the course of its three years of existence, the PRO league has become one of the biggest events that Grandmasters look forward to competing in. The league is also a platform for the youngsters to get an opportunity to try out their luck against the seasoned veterans.
For the past two seasons, the league has seen immense popularity on online streaming networks like twitch.tv. Backing upon this fan following, the organisers of the league, chess.com, 'moved' one step forward and launched a live finals weekend, the first one taking place last year in San Francisco.
In 2018, the final weekend was watched live on site by hundreds of fans in and across the Bay Area and the Silicon Valley. However, the ones like me, who were watching from around the world in India, got a chance to witness history being made live on Twitch.tv. The team from Armenia clinched the title last year and they came back again as one of the top four teams in the finals weekend this year but weren't as successful.
This year's event was grander in its scope. It had more followers watching both on-site and online, while the ones on-site were able to even win t-shirts shot at them from a missile toy gun by the famous commentator and international master Danny Rensch.
The four teams that qualified for this year's finals weekend were- the Chengdu Pandas, the St. Louis Archbishops, the Armenian Eagles, and the Baden-Baden Snowballs. What was fascinating about such an event was that it was far from a normal classical tournament setting.
It was made much more viewer friendly, as both players and fans could scream at the top of their lungs and cheer for those that were competing live, because they had noise-cancelling headphones to clear out any background disturbances. Moreover, one could talk about the possible moves live in the playing area itself without the competitor's attention.
This year's event was also able to draw the world number two and 2018's World Championship Match challenger, Fabiano Caruana, who played for his team St.Louis Archbishops. In fact, Caruana had also been quite a regular during the tournament's league stage season, where all the 32 teams were trying to qualify for the play-offs and a shot at the prestigious finals weekend.
In a highly anticipated tournament setting, it was the Archbishops who reigned supreme and dethroned the Armenian eagles from their prized purse of 2018. The Archbishops won against the new team Baden Baden Snowballs, who were led by Grandmaster Georg Meir. The Chengdu Pandas got their revenge from last year when they defeated the Armenian Eagles to finish in the third spot. In fact, the Archbishops became the most successful team in the history of the PRO Chess League as they won the title for the second time, expanding on their victory in the inaugural season.
Now, as the main season is over, for the third successful time since 2017, the PRO Chess League has come up with another challenge for their fans and teams. Starting for the first time in this summer, the league has come up with the Summer Chess Series, where teams and fans can compete for more glory. This format is unique because fans also get a chance to play for their favourite teams, by joining their fan clubs on the host site chess.com. In the early fall, the winning teams will be crowned with more cash prizes. Besides, the summer series, the league is extending its eligible teams for the main season, by increasing the number to 40 from 32. The qualifiers for the new teams start somewhere in the fall, and these teams can now get a greater legitimate shot to compete in this ever-evolving chess league.
From making the classical game of chess into one of the biggest e-sports in the world, the PRO Chess League has been a phenomenal experience for both the players and fans alike. Now, one can't wait for the Summer Series to get on a roll.Published 08 May 2019, 13:14 IST