Grandmaster Wesley So's efforts did not go for naught after all.
The So-led Saint Louis Arch Bishops were declared the winner of the 2020 PRO Chess League championship after the Armenia Eagles, particularly Armenian Grandmaster Tigran Petrosian, were found to have violated fair play regulations and got disqualified, forfeiting their title and the $20,000 top purse.
Chess.com's Fair Play team launched an investigation and determined that Petrosian, namesake of the late world champion from 1963-1969, cheated during games in both the semifinal and final matches held September 25 and 27, respectively.
As a result, Petrosian was given a lifetime ban by Chess.com and the PRO Chess League, while the Eagles, also composed of Armenian GM Haik Martirosyan, Iranian GM Parham Maghsoodloo, and Indian sensation GM Raunak Sadhewani, were temporarily suspended from participation in the PRO Chess League.
After losing his first two semifinal games against Anish Giri and Alexander Grischuk of the Canadian Chessbrahs, Tigrosian suddenly turned super sharp, beating Aryan Tari and Ivan Savic, as the Armenian Eagles snatched a 9-7 victory and arranged a title duel with the defending champion Arch Bishops composed of Filipino-born So, world No. 2 Fabiano Caruana, Leinier Dominguez Perez, and Jeffery Xiong.
In a baffling display of accuracy, Petrosian trounced Dominguez in the first round, Caruana in the second, and So in the fourth round. Only Xiong, the lowest-rated among the Team USA members, was able to salvage a draw with Petrosian in the third round.
The Arch Bishops clinched their third title in the four-year league, replicating their triumphs in the inaugural 2017 edition and the 2019 season of the team event.
So, who tallied 2.5 points out of 4 against the Eagles, was adjudged league MVP after scoring 24.5 points out of 32 matches for a performance rating of 2825.
In light of the incident, PRO Chess League commissioner IM Greg Shahade released this statement:
"It's always unfortunate when the league is presented with evidence of fair play violations, but we stand behind the evidence presented from Chess.com's Fair Play team."
Ironically, it was Petrosian who accused GM Gaioz Nigalidze of cheating in the 17th Dubai Open Chess in 2015 and was proven to be right, leading to the Georgian's expulsion from the tournament. – Rappler.com