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USCL Week 10: Arch Bishops Look to Extend Dominance Over Carolina

GM Wesley So has been dominant on Saint Louis' top board in the U.S. Chess League. So is undefeated with a 7/8 score this season, helping to secure the Southern Division title and a first-round playoff bye.


Tonight's Saint Louis Arch Bishops match versus the Carolina Cobras will be streamed live, featuring commentary by FM Aviv Friedman. First moves are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. local time.


The Saint Louis Arch Bishops got all their work done early.

Two weeks ago, with a win over the Atlanta Kings, the squad clinched a spot in the 2014 U.S. Chess League playoffs. Last week, with a win over the Los Angeles Vibe, the Arch Bishops clinched the Southern Division title, ensuring a first-round bye straight into the quarterfinals.

Already having achieved everything it needed from the season, and with a week 10 season finale matchup against the Carolina Cobras -- already mathematically eliminated from playoff contention -- the Arch Bishops, it seems, can just kick their feet up and relax.

But they won’t.

“The League contacted everyone and wanted to ensure that we would still play our game competitively, even if it didn’t matter,” said Saint Louis general manager Alex Marler. “But of course it matters. We are going to stomp Carolina.”

Call it a grudge. Saint Louis has never lost to Southern-division foe Carolina, holding the all-time series at 2.5-0.5, and Marler admits that streak it is not likely to change in 2014. The Arch Bishops have been dominant over the past month, turning around a three-game midseason skid that featured two losses by winning their last three matches each with a 3-1 score.

The turnaround can be pinpointed to a week 7 shuffle by Marler who now runs a seemingly airtight lineup right at Carolina. Grandmaster So, currently the 10th player in the world according to live rankings, leads the Arch Bishops on the first board. So is undefeated this season with a 7/8 score, including three straight victories, and enters tonight with a 300-point rating advantage over Carolina’s IM Kassa Korley.

And veteran GM Ben Finegold has regained his swagger in the USCL. Finegold, an Arch Bishop since the beginning, has performed outstandingly in his five years in the league by scoring 21.5 points out of 32 games with a 2637 performance rating. Tonight, he also holds a 300-point rating advantage over National Master Joshua Mu.

Saint Louis’ latest success has come from a late-season revival of its bottom boards. On Board 3, up-and-comer NM Matthew Larson, a 2014 U.S. Junior Closed participant who has scored 1.5 points over the past two weeks, finds an even matchup against Carolina’s FIDE Master Robin Cunningham. And Finegold’s son, NM Spencer Finegold, has been a solid roster addition and a major player in Saint Louis’ season turnaround. Spencer has delivered victory in both matches played this season, both times despite being a rating underdog. Tonight he plays the role of fearless dog again, this time 50 points beneath NM Craig Jones.

Tonight's Arch Bishop match versus the Carolina Cobras is slated for start at 7:00 p.m. local time. Live spectators may take in the games live at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, sitting in with live commentary from resident master FM Aviv Friedman. Both the games and commentary will be streamed live for online spectators.