German Chess League Bundesliga Headed To Playoff
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian, top boards for Baden-Baden this weekend. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

German Chess League Bundesliga Headed To Playoff

| 14 | Chess Event Coverage

The 2017-2018 Schachbundesliga season will be decided in a playoff held later this month. In the final "weekend" in Berlin, both Baden-Baden and Solingen won all three matches and finished on the same amount of match points.

For the final three rounds 13, 14 and 15 of this year's Bundesliga season, all teams gathered in the Maritim Hotel in Berlin. The Berlin chess club (Schachfreunde Berlin, or as some call it jokingly, "Schadenfreude Berlin") organized this joint event for the second year in a row, and turned it into a real chess festival.

Bundesliga 2018 Berlin

All 16 teams playing together. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

As is usually the case with events in Germany, the organization was of a high level. The final weekend even had its own, dedicated website.

Side events included a very strong blitz tournament on Saturday evening (won by GM Evgeny Tomashevsky, who beat GM Jorden van Foreest in the playoff), tournaments for youth and politicians and lectures about Emanuel Lasker, who was born 150 years ago on December 24 of this year.

This season is a pretty exciting one, with no decision after 15 rounds of play. Baden-Baden and Solingen both finished on 27 match points, and this means they will meet in a playoff match later this month. The exact date will be decided in a day or two.'s interview with organizer Rainer Polzin.

The star-studded Baden-Baden team still enjoys the top sponsorship by Grenke, the financial institute that also supports the annual open and round-robin tournaments in Karlsruhe and Baden-Baden.

The team won the German league for 10 years in a row, but suddenly the hegemony ended when Solingen grabbed the win in the 2015-2016 season. Last year, Baden-Baden reclaimed the title.

MVL Aronian Bundesliga

MVL and Aronian (Baden-Baden) starting their games with Howell and Tomashesky (Hockenheim). | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

As soon as it became clear, on Tuesday afternoon that the teams would tie for first, their team captains started talking to their players—the ones present, but also others by phone. The big question is which top GMs can join the Baden-Baden team for the playoff. 

The list of players entered at the start of the season includes GMs Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Viswanathan Anand, Peter Svidler, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Michael Adams, Francisco Vallejo Pons, Etienne Bacrot, Arkadij Naiditsch, Sergei Movsesian, Rustam KasimdzhanovHou Yifan, Alexei Shirov, Jan Gustafsson, and Peter Heine Nielsen.

Team captain Sven Noppes of Baden-Baden could try to have the match played three weeks from now, which is closer to the Norway Chess tournament. That might convince players such as Anand (who lives in Chennai) and Caruana (St. Louis) to play, and then stay in Europe for a week before heading to Stavanger.

The venue will be Baden-Baden because it finished with a higher number of board points. One complication for Noppes is that his regular venue, LA8 museum in Baden-Baden, won't be available.

Harikrishna, Rapport Bundesliga Solingen

Pentala Harikrishna and Richard Rapport, top boards for Solingen in the final weekend. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Solingen's season team lineup has a strong Dutch flavor and includes GMs Anish Giri, (who didn't play yet), Pentala HarikrishnaRichard RapportMarkus RaggerLoek van WelySurya GangulyRobin van KampenBenjamin BokJan SmeetsErwin L'AmiBorki PredojevicMads Andersen, Predrag Nikolic and Artur Jussupow.

In the last three rounds, Harikrishna was the top board for Solingen. He scored a solid 6/9 this season with no losses. On Monday he beat Van Foreest as Black in a smooth game:'s interview with Harikrishna.

On February 25, the big clash between Baden-Baden and Solingen took place, and it was in fact won by Solingen. Seven games in that match ended in draws, and it was Solingen's l'Ami, Giri's regular second, who became the match winner with a wonderful, positional grind vs GM Arkadij Naiditsch. also spoke to Jan Smeets, a semi-retired Dutch grandmaster who works at the stock exchange in Amsterdam these days and basically only plays Bundesliga. (For trivia lovers: he was born on the exact same day as l'Ami.)

Smeets still felt a bit ashamed for losing a full match point as he failed to draw this game below, when Solingen played 4-4 vs Werder Bremen on February 3:'s interview with Smeets.

Vachier-Lagrave has been one of Baden-Baden's most valuable players this season. He played 11 rounds, and scored 8.5 points to remain undefeated. In the final weekend he scored two wins and then a draw in the early-morning round. (Aronian also drew quickly in the game that started at 10 a.m.!)

"Yeah, this is a serious issue," smiled MVL. "But I also understand the concept, to allow everyone to get back home."

Here's Vachier-Lagrave's win over GM David Howell from the clash with SV 1930 Hockenheim, a long, Berlin endgame that ended in the theoretical Q-vs-R endgame:'s interview with Vachier-Lagrave.

Below are two additional spectacular games played this last "weekend." First, there was an absolutely amazing draw between GMs Loek van Wely and Falko Bindrich where loads of pieces were hanging and the engines approve of almost all moves:

Loek van Wely Bundesliga

Loek van Wely finished with 2.5/3 to score 9.5/13 in total. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Richard Rapport is often good for an attractive game as well. In the last round on Tuesday he totally crushed Matthias Bluebaum, showing that the French Exchange isn't always played by white looking for a draw:

Richard Rapport Bundesliga

A crushing win for Richard Rapport. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ also grabbed the chance to speak to the 13-year-old IM Vincent Keymer and his coach GM Peter Leko. Keymer sensationally won the Grenke Open last month, and is playing for the same team as Leko: SF Deizisau.

Vincent Keymer vs Borki Predojevic Bundesliga

Vincent Keymer (right) vs Borki Predojevic, which ended in a draw. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Keymer scored a win and two draws in the last rounds, but was better in those two draws as well. His coach was satisfied!'s interview with Keymer and Leko.

2017-2018 Schachbundesliga | Final Standings

# Team Rds Won Tied Lost MP BP
1 OSG Baden-Baden 15 13 1 1 27 86.5
2 SG Solingen 15 13 1 1 27 84.5
3 SV 1930 Hockenheim 15 11 0 4 22 76
4 SV Werder Bremen 15 10 2 3 22 74.5
5 Schachfreunde Deizisau 15 9 0 6 18 67.5
6 USV TU Dresden 15 7 4 4 18 62
7 DJK Aufwärts Aachen 15 7 2 6 16 62.5
8 SK Schwäbisch Hall 15 8 0 7 16 61.5
9 SF Berlin 1903 15 7 1 7 15 57.5
10 Hamburger SK 15 5 2 8 12 63
11 SV Mülheim Nord 15 5 1 9 11 52.5
12 SV 1920 Hofheim 15 4 3 8 11 48
13 MSA Zugzwang 82 15 3 2 10 8 44
14 SG Speyer-Schwegenheim 15 3 2 10 8 42.5
15 FC Bayern München 15 2 2 11 6 45.5
16 SK Norderstedt 1975 15 1 1 13 3 32

Games via TWIC.

Solingen Bundesliga

The Solingen players could easily be recognized as they were wearing special blue team shirts. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Aronian and his father

Aronian, here with his father visiting, has his own taste for t-shirts, which often have cats. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Peter Svidler Michael Adams

Peter Svidler (right, next to Michael Adams) traveled to Berlin for just one game. When invited the next evening for a drink in the bar, he replied: "Say what? I'm in Sochi." He had already taken a flight back to his home country to play in the Russian league!  | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

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