Berlin, Berlin, … Wir fahren nach Berlin!

This battle call is usually heard in German stadiums when the victorious football team is heading towards the final of the knockout competition, which is being held in Berlin since 1985. In this year’s chess season 2016/2017, the finale takes place in the German capital as well. However, not only 2 teams will participate, but instead all 16 teams of the Schachbundesliga and all 12 teams of the Frauenbundesliga will face off in this extraordinary event.

The event

The last three rounds of the Schachbundesliga and Frauenbundesliga, which is the highest German league for women, will take place this week-end from Saturday, April 29th, to Monday, May 1st, in the Maritim hotel close to the famous “Tiergarten” and  “Potsdamer Platz”. The event is hosted by the local club “Schachfreunde Berlin”, which certainly put a lot of energy and effort into the organisation. Each day there will be exactly 100 (hopefully) high-quality chess games being transmitted live to the chess-hungry crowd worldwide.

For the audience at the venue, there are special treats. Of course it is a big pleasure to see part of the chess elite close and in life-size, especially if you manage to observe some of their habits (this deserves a blog post or an entire book on its own!). Oftentimes, stars and idols who you always considered to be huge and impressive figures (corresponding to their chess status) turn out to be rather small and slim – and then there are players like Kramnik, who are huge either way. Apart from that, the audience profits from live commentary by GM Klaus Bischoff, a Lasker exhibition, Blitz-tournaments and an autograph session by none other than ex World Champion Anatoly Karpov.

Karpov and Aronian at the Schachbundesliga finale 2014 in Eppingen

Anatoly Karpov and Levon Aronian at the Schachbundesliga finale 2014 in Eppingen; photo: Volker Walter

Unparalleled?

Not really, but rare none the less. There have already been 3 finales in recent years, where all teams of the Schachbundesliga got together and played out the last rounds. The first one was 2011 in Mühlheim, then 2013 in the wonderful Schwetzinger castle and 2014 in Eppingen. Personally, I have been present at the last two and highly enjoyed it. Needless to say that the atmosphere is priceless and that there is so much going on at every time. This year will be the first one, in which the woman-championship is included, too.

identification badge finale Eppingen Schachbundesliga 2014

ID badge 2014 in Eppingen; VIP for once; photo: SW

Who’s fighting for titles?

Granted, it is quite clear that Baden-Baden will regain the title after last year’s surprise intermezzo by SG Solingen (Giri, Harikrishna, Rapport, Ragger…). In the current standings, the Grenke-team is up by 5 points, so a single team win is enough to secure clear 1st place. On the other hand, concerning the runner-up and qualification spots for the European Club Cup, there is even more excitement going on. SV Hockenheim leads at the moment (19 points; Karpov, Tomashevsky, Vitiugov, Jobava…), followed by SG Solingen (18 points), SK Schwäbisch-Hall (also 18 points; Li Chao, Inarkiev, Jakovenko, Rodshtein) and SV Mühlheim Nord (17 points; Navara, Motylev, Tregubov, Fridman). Of particular interest will be Sunday’s match Hockenheim vs. Schwäbisch-Hall, and it is also noteworthy that Solingen still has to play Baden-Baden (who seek for revenge for sure).

In the Frauenbundesliga, SK Schwäbisch-Hall is on the top with 15 points. They have 5 players with Elo rating >2400 in their line-up and possess good chances to seal the deal, given that they have already played against their direct rivals. OSG Baden-Baden (Kosteniuk, 2x Muzychuk) is in pursuit 1 point behind, but still has to play against the third place team of SC Bad Königshofen (Gunina, Xue Zhao, Girya). We will take a close look at those encounters.

chess queen Alexandra Kosteniuk; playing in the final rounds Schachbundesliga?

Chess Queen Alexandra Kosteniuk; photo: Andreas Kontokanis http://www.flickr.com/photos/karpidis/

How about the beyond-chess members?

Niclas‘ team, the prestigious Hamburger SK, seems to be beyond good or evil, situated in the middle of the table. Sorry Niclas, but that’s not overly exciting…

Still, Markus and his team from MSA Zugzwang, as well as myself (SV Griesheim), would gladly change positions with him, since we are both fighting for the right to stay in the Schachbundesliga. The situation in this finale is tough, as you can see here. Generally, if no other team voluntarily retreats, 4 teams are relegated to the 2nd league. My team is still facing Hockenheim (hopefully with Karpov!), Schwäbisch-Hall and Dresden, who are all way out of our league (possibly very literally soon). Both Munich teams, Zugzwang and Bayern München, are still playing Aachen and Trier, as well as each other on Saturday. Lots of attention is being expected there!

Where can I follow?

On Saturday, the games will start at 2pm. On Sunday and Monday, they begin at 10am.

You can check out live games on the official website for the finale. Of course, there’s also the official Schachbundesliga site.

I am sure, it will be great and I am really looking forward to it. If you like to root for some of the beyond-chess players (here or on Twitter/facebook), this would be highly appreciated of course!