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Hackers’ Season Ends in the Surf – Here Were This Year’s Highlights.

Posted: 2 years, 4 months ago

By IM Vignesh Panchanatham

In the final round of the Pro Chess League, the San Jose Hackers (4.5-3.5) faced off against the San Diego Surfers with a playoff spot on the line. With certain results falling San Jose’s way, the Hackers could’ve made the playoffs with either a win or draw. Due to the immense amount of game points accumulated by the Hackers over the course of the season, the Hackers would trump either the Dallas Destiny or Australia Kangaroos in the case of a tie.

To produce the strongest results, the Hackers opted for their top-heavy lineup featuring world #2 GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov on board 1. GM Daniel Naroditsky played board 2, the ever-solid GM Zviad Izoria continued his reign over board 3, and Vinesh Ravuri maintained his place on board 4 as the under-rated threat. On the other hand, the San Diego Surfers opted for a more balanced lineup with GM Alexey Dreev, IM Michael Brown, IM Keaton Kiewra, and IM Joshua Sheng.

Unfortunately, the Hackers were unable to make up ground after IM Sheng upset GM Naroditsky. GM Mamedyarov was unable to pull off a win in the last round, eventually losing in his desperate attempts to win. Since the Australia Kangaroos drew, a draw would have sufficed to send the Hackers to the playoffs. Alas, the match ended 7-9 in favor of the San Diego Surfers, who ended up as the 2018 Pacific Division Champions.

Despite a disappointing finish, the Hackers enjoyed an extremely strong season. The Hackers maintained an even (4.5-4.5) record, while dominating the special events. The Hackers won the first Super Saturday, and came a close second to the Magnus Carlsen-led Norway Gnomes in the second one.

Many thanks go to all of the players: GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, GM Rauf Mamedov, GM Daniel Naroditsky, GM Zviad Izoria, GM Cristian Chirila, IM Cameron Wheeler, IM Konstantin Kavutskiy, Faik Aleskerov, FM Teemu Virtanen, FM Christopher Yoo, Ivan Ke, and Vinesh Ravuri! The sacrifices that each player made to play for this Hacker team cannot be emphasized enough. GMs Mamedyarov and Mamedov played through immensely difficult tournament schedules and time differences, while the other adults on the team participated despite their strenuous work schedules and the youngsters battled through busy school schedules.

Additional praise should go to team managers Judit Sztaray and Abel Talamantez for putting together such a competitive roster. Special thanks go to BayAreaChess and its Board of Directors for sponsoring and supporting the Hackers again this year. Best of luck to the Pacific Division teams as they take on the rest of the world in the playoffs.

Looking Forward

The Hackers suffered this season from the later rounds, both in terms of later games within matches as well as the later matches in the season. Often times, the Hackers would go into the last round of a match with an opportunity to win, but would just miss out. Similarly, in these last few weeks of the season, it turned out that the Hackers only needed a draw to make the playoffs, which they couldn’t quite achieve. As expected in all competitive events, these clutch victories can make or break a team.

Participating in the Pacific Division was another factor. With 6 teams holding an even or better record, the Pacific Division was arguably the toughest division in the Pro Chess League. Hopefully, next year, every division will have the amount of exciting competition that the Pacific had this year! The Hackers are looking forward next year to a league with even clearer rules and the same fair competitive play we enjoyed this year.

This year was a huge step forward for the Pro Chess League, and even chess in general. The strength of the participating players has dramatically increased, and the interest level has risen with it. The fantasy chess contests have even caused your author to procrastinate his schoolwork for a couple of hours J. The finals will be held live locally in San Francisco, another major step in promoting interest in chess. ESPN has already featured one article about the Pro Chess League, so let’s hope that these amazing opportunities continue to attract positive attention like that.

It has been a pleasure writing about the Hackers this season, and I am already looking forward to next season!