A Star-Studded Baden-Baden Wins Bundesliga
The winning team with the cup. | Photo: Guido Giotta/Schachbundesliga.

A Star-Studded Baden-Baden Wins Bundesliga

| 18 | Chess Event Coverage

Despite bringing top players Fabiano Caruana, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Vishy Anand, the team of Baden-Baden scored only a narrow 4.5-3.5 victory against Solingen to clinch its 12th Bundesliga title in 13 years.

The playoff between Baden-Baden and Solingen, yesterday in the Kulturhaus LA8 in Baden-Baden, Germany was necessary as the two teams had tied for first place after the 15 rounds this season. This situation occurred at the end of the joint weekend in Berlin last month.

2017-2018 Schachbundesliga | Final Standings

# Team Rds Won Tied Lost MP BP
1-2 OSG Baden-Baden 15 13 1 1 27 86.5
1-2 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

Thanks to their higher number of board points, Baden-Baden got the home advantage for the playoff. And, as expected, it could profit from the fact that some of its players needed to be in Europe anyway for the Altibox Norway Chess tournament, which starts Sunday—Caruana, MVL and Anand took the "pit stop" in Germany before traveling to Norway.

The rest of Baden-Baden's team wasn't too shabby either, with Peter Svidler, Radek Wojtaszek, Michael Adams, Etienne Bacrot and Rustam Kasimdzhanov.

For the first time this season, SV Solingen played with Anish Giri on top board. However, Pentala Harikrishna was not available for board two as he had already committed to play in the Chinese league.

Solingen's other players were Markus Ragger, Loek van Wely, Jan Smeets, Erwin l'Ami, Borki Predojevic, Mads Andersen and Predrag Nikolic. You might have noticed that the German league doesn't have restrictions related to the nationalities of players—this playoff did not include a single German player!

Baden-Baden vs Solingen, 2018

The match is underway, with MVL vs Ragger in front. | Photo: Guido Giotta/Schachbundesliga.

Just like their encounter in the regular season, narrowly won by Solingen with seven draws and a win for l'Ami, the fight was a very close one yesterday. That was partly because Caruana, on board one, lost to Giri.

In this Petroff, the opening that was so successful for Caruana at the Candidates', Giri got a tiny edge that got more serious when he managed to get g3-g4 in, on move 32.

"Allowing g4! is the moment when the position turned from easier to play/very slightly better to difficult for Black. I felt gxh5 helped me a lot," Giri told "But I imagine it's good anyway. I didn't analyze deeply yet. After the time control it must be winning, after 40...Qf8 41.Kf3."

Giri vs Caruana, Bundesliga

With this win, Giri passed Wesley So and moved up to world number eight in the live ratings. | Photo: Guido Giotta/Schachbundesliga.

By the time Giri had won this game, it didn't matter much anymore. Baden-Baden had scored two wins already, for both Svidler and Kasimdzhanov. The latter faced 57-year-old Bosnian GM Nikolic, who still plays the Winawer French after all those years, and is still suffering with it against (former) top GMs.

Vlastimil Hort's old move 8...Bxc3 seems more to the point than Nikolic's novelty. "I don't think I played ideally, I guess not, but I think I never let my advantage go so I think all in all it was a good game," said Kasimdzhanov.

Svidler won in what was another Petroff, vs Smeets. "What I did in the opening should not be repeated, this is not good. Somewhere around move 16, 17 I probably was worse," admitted Svidler. 

Instead of playing for an advantage, Smeets kept making solid moves thst allowed his opponent to regroup. Svidler: "I think it should have been a draw up to very long into the game. But when he was making moves on increment, below one minute, he started making mistakes."

After a mediocre season, this game was a good finish for the St. Petersburg resident. "I am happy that I could to something for the club when it mattered."

With draws on the other boards, Baden-Baden won the match 4.5-3.5 and its 12th Bundesliga title. Incidentally, the only other club who had managed to reach the same number is Solingen. So there's your answer to the question what else there is to achieve for Baden-Baden!

Baden-Baden vs Solingen

Fed Name Rtg Result Fed Name Rtg
Caruana, Fabiano 2794 0-1 Giri, Anish 2762
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2794 ½-½ Ragger, Markus 2659
Anand, Viswanathan 2783 ½-½ Van Wely, Loek 2663
Svidler, Peter 2760 1-0 Smeets, Jan 2605
Wojtaszek, Radoslaw 2737 ½-½ L'Ami, Erwin 2611
Adams, Michael 2727 ½-½ Predojevic, Borki 2621
GM Bacrot, Etienne 2723 ½-½ Andersen, Mads 2589
Kasimdzhanov, Rustam 2676 1-0 Nikolic, Predrag 2586

Games via TWIC.

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