Thursday, January 12, 2017

Week 1: PRO Chess League Begins

Hi everyone! I am LM Aaron Balleisen, and I am excited to begin a series of weekly reports on the Carolina Cobras' performance in the PRO (Professional Rapid Online) Chess League (PCL). The Cobras were one of the founding members of the old United States Chess League, and will continue to field a local team under the new league format. PCL matches feature sixteen rapid games at a g15 time control, in which each of a team's four players compete against all four opponents. The faster pace is intended to make the games more accessible to audiences, who can view all games live on

One interesting wrinkle in the new league format is that teams can choose to supplement their local players with "free agents" from around the globe. Many of the top players in the world, including Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, have taken advantage of this opportunity to join the PCL. Carolina is proud to field an all-local team, giving our up-and-coming players a chance to gain experience against some really strong competition.

The Cobras' season kicked off Wednesday, January 11 with a 5.5/16 performance against the Philadelphia Inventors. It was a solid effort by our local players against a team that featured two GMs along with strong masters on the lower boards.

Carolina's lineup for the match featured NMs Peter Giannatos, Steve Wang, Daniel Cremisi, and myself. We all played some very interesting games, some of which I have highlighted below with annotations and analysis.

NM Peter Giannatos scored a very respectable 2/4 in the match, taking care of business against Philly's two lower boards and losing tough games to GMs Erenburg and Vovk. Below is a clinical victory against FM Dov Gorman, which illustrates the lasting power of the bishop pair. At several moments during the game, Peter could have cashed in his bishops for a small, concrete advantage. Waiting for the right moment to turn a dynamic advantage into a concrete plus is always a challenge, and Peter waits until a nice tactic allows him to force a clearly winning endgame.

NM Daniel "let's just play chess and not embarrass ourselves" Cremisi did just that with a 2/4 performance. Like Peter, Daniel went 2-0 against the lower rated opponents, only losing to the two top GMs. In the following game, Daniel builds up a nice attack from an opposite-colored bishop middlegame, culminating in a nice tactical breakthrough.

NM Steve Wang had a tough night, losing all four of his games. He had some definite unlucky moments, most notably against NM Peter Minear, when a mouse-slip in time pressure dropped a queen and cost a full point. His game against GM Erenburg was extremely back and forth, and could have gone either way until the very end.

My games were all quite tense, a definite byproduct of the short time control and online playing environment. I scored 1.5/4, notching a win against NM Matthew O'Brien and a draw against GM Erenburg. Both games featured interesting endgames, and time pressure scrambles. In the game against O'Brien, I found a direct tactic which transformed the position into one where only two results are possible, win or draw. Positions like this are especially desirable in rapid time controls where there is an added advantage in being able to play "safe" moves quickly.

 My draw against GM Erenburg involved a difficult, pawn down rook ending. In the position below, I am already significantly worse, with weak light squares and passive pieces. Qd3! simplifies to a rook endgame at the cost of a pawn, where I have good chances to hold.

I hope you enjoyed this recap, and I look forward to continuing this article series throughout the PCL season! Our next match is Wednesday, January 18 at 6:40pm against the Columbus Cardinals. Games can be viewed live on

Until next time,
LM Aaron Balleisen

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