October 28 might have more titled players than ever playing on Chess.com. If nothing else, there will be more at stake than ever.
That's because many qualification spots for teams to earn spots in the Professional Online Rapid (PRO) Chess League are up for grabs. This prequel to the league's second season will fulfill 25 percent of the squads in the 32-team league -- all determined by two high-stakes qualification tournaments in one day.
Are you ready to sign up your team? Teams must fill out this form by October 15!
You can toss out the two-tier qualification originally announced early this summer. Now, the qualification tournaments will conclude all in one day, and six four-person teams will know by day's end if they've made it to the show. If so, they'll join the 24 invited teams (which are listed in the original article).
Another two teams will qualify three days later, with help from their fan bases. More on that later in this report.
New York Knights
There's currently no team from inside the five boroughs. Will the New York Knights change that through the qualification tournament?
A note about future seasons: Going forward, the top six teams in each of the eight-team divisions will automatically qualify again for the following season. The bottom two teams will be "relegated" and will have to earn their way back through the qualifying tournament. League management believes this will lead to even more excitement every year, as teams are not just vying for top spots and big prize money, but also for the right to "stay alive" as an automatic qualifier for the next season.
The Hamburg Swashbucklers were solid last year, just missing the playoffs. Still, they finished a lot better in their first season (3.5-3.5) than that "other" pirate logo franchise.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't rob anyone's loot at the beginning. In 1976, their first season, they went 0-14.
Also coming later on in 2017, backed by heavy demand, will be a dedicated league website: PROChessLeague.com. The site is still being built, but when done, it will greatly help fans and players follow standings, players, matches, statistics, photos, and much more.
The league has a tentative start date of January 17, 2018.
Teams and fans can find the full breakdown of rules and regulations for the qualifier event on October 28 here, but the big question now becomes who will try to qualify to dethrone the St. Louis Arch Bishops (champions picture above). For those willing to speculate...see below.
The Dublin Desperadoes
The Dublin Desperadoes won't be so desperate if they get GM Ruslan Ponomariov back for the qualifier tournament.
The Kings have already announced their intention to try to qualify. They boasted a few GMs last year, but now GM Ben Finegold is a local, too. His loyal fan base is thus wondering if he will stay an Arch Bishop, or if he's "taking his talents to the beltline?"
Only one cold-weather bird flew to warmer climates this offseason. While the Puffins are in for 2018, the Penguins will need to play their way in. At least in the offseason they acquired one million extra Patagonian acres to hold training sessions.
None of the African teams earned automatic qualification, but the team that had everyone googling their mascot has the best chance to be the first back in from the continent. Who doesn't love donuts?
To restate, the qualifying tournament will determine six of the many hopeful teams for the winter season. How about the final two teams? They will get in with a little help from their friends...
A fan vote will take place (full details at the rules page here) within a few days after the event. Teams will have time to submit pleas to fans on social media, create videos and interact with the Chess.com community in any way they can to drum up support! A poll will then be placed on the Chess.com homepage for 72 hours and the magic will begin!
So tell us in the comments, fans, which of the teams cut would you like to see back and who are you hoping make a bid for this year's qualifier?