The Russia Wizards leaned on the heads-up plays of Alexey Sarana and Ian Nepomniachtchi to topple the Saint Louis Arch Bishops, 9-6, and capture the PRO Chess League Royale Arena crown on Friday, September 24 (Saturday, September 25, Philippine time).
Nepomniachtchi, the world No. 4 who’ll be challenging Magnus Carlsen for the world title this year, and Sarana, who performed way better than his Elo 2635, both scored 3.5 points out of a perfect 4 to power the Wizards past the defending champions led by world No. 2 Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So in the four-round finals.
Sarana was the most impressive performer with consecutive victories over Caruana, So, and Lenier Dominguez, complementing the effort of Nepomniachtchi, as Russia took the first round, 3-1, and the second, 2.5-1.5, before settling for a 2-2 draw in the third round.
With the outcome virtually settled heading to the fourth round, the Russians drew 3 boards with only So notching a win over Evgeny Tomashevsky to give the Americans an immaterial 2.5-1.5 victory.
The Wizards, who also included Maxim Chicagev, pocketed the champion’s purse of $20,000 apart from individual prizes.
The India Yogis clinched third place with a 9-7 triumph over the California Unicorns.
Russia thus asserted its supremacy over Team USA which it also beat, 3.5-2.5, for the 2021 Online Chess Olympiad.
Jeffery Xiong, who manned the top board for the Americans then, was also part of the top-seeded Saint Louis squad. – Rappler.com