Solingen Ends Decade Of Baden Baden Hegemony
The impossible turned out to be possible. For the first time in a decade Baden Baden did not win the German league a.k.a. Schachbundesliga. This season the team from Solingen emerged as the winner.
Photo: Guido Giotta courtesy of Schachgesellschaft Solingen e.V.
Yours truly has been writing about chess for about ten years now (I started my Dutch language blog in February 2006) and each time I posted about the Bundesliga, I wrote something along the lines of “Baden Baden won of course.” Sponsored by Grenke, the team from the spa town in southwestern Germany always had the most money and therefore the most top GMs in their line-up.
But not this year.
After eight “normal” rounds, where Baden-Baden had collected 16 match points, there was a first sign of the later trouble whereas for Solingen the success story started. The two teams faced each other in round nine, on 21 February of this year, and Solingen held the higher rated team to 4-4.
Pentala Harikrishna, who is sitting right next to Vishy Anand in the live ratings at the moment, held their mutual game to a draw as Black on board one. Solingen's Richard Rapport scored an important win against Levon Aronian after avoiding a move repetition in the opening:
Another white win was scored by Solingen's Robin van Kampen (who we'll return to later in this report!). His opponent Radek Wojtaszek was probably expecting a draw offer when he made a big error:
A month later disaster struck for Baden-Baden. The most successful “other team” during their decade long hegemony, SK Werder Bremen (they finished second six times), managed to beat them 3-5.
At the start of the year Arkadij Naiditsch had lost IM Moulthun Ly in Gibraltar, and in this match for his club he lost to another Australian: GM David Smerdon. The game looked a bit like a King's Indian with reversed colors after White went for an attack on the kingside. He misevaluated the pawn trade he went for, after the black king looked safer.
A good game by Smerdon! (Who, by the way, later wrote a blog on the Bundesliga where he mentions the great game Duda-Gajewski and an interesting fortress that could have appeared in another game.)
An excellent result for Werder Bremen, but they had failed earlier in the season in other matches: 1.5-6.5 vs Solingen and 2.5-5.5 vs Hockenheim. Solingen, on the other hand, hadn't lost a single match. Besides with Baden Baden they drew only with USV TU Dresden in round twelve.
They went into the final round, on Sunday 24 April, having one match point more than Baden Baden, and had to beat SV Griesheim to be certain of the title assuming that Baden Baden would beat Hansa Dortmund. As can be read in the report on the Solingen website, there were some tense moments as for a while the match vs Griesheim seemed to be heading to 4-4 or even a loss.
Eventually two Dutch GMs decided their games in Solingen's favor to clinch the first non-Baden Baden title in ten years. First Jan Smeets:
Like Smeets, Van Kampen is semi-retirered for the moment (he started studying business) but he played an important role for Solingen nonetheless. In a Classical King's Indian (Mar del Plata) he won an excellent game, finishing in style and providing a beautiful mate to finish Solingen's winning season. He got a round of applause.
Especially Harikrishna (7½/9) and Rapport (9/11) played a brilliant season for Solingen with Elo performance of 2880 and 2871 respectively. Let's finish with another nice game from the latter, also from that last match against Griesheim:
2015-2016 Schachbundesliga | Final Standings
|3||SV Werder Bremen||12||1||2||25||76|
|4||SK Schwäbisch Hall||9||2||4||20||71,5|
|5||SF Berlin 1903||8||2||5||18||67|
|7||SV Mülheim Nord||7||3||5||17||60,5|
|8||SK Turm Emsdetten||7||2||6||16||64|
|9||USV TU Dresden||6||3||6||15||64|
|10||SV 1930 Hockenheim||6||3||6||15||64|
|12||SC Hansa Dortmund||3||2||10||8||47|
|14||SV Griesheim 1976||3||0||12||6||46|
|15||FC Bayern München||1||2||12||4||37|
|16||SK Norderstedt 1975||1||2||12||4||31|