Apologies again for a long break between posting but again I’ve been very busy. I promise to update as much as possible now while I have a bit of time at home.
This year I made my debut for SC Remagen in the German Bundesliga. The top division is composed of 18 teams with 8 players with no restrictions on either the number of foreigners or gender, and is generally regarded as the strongest league in the world.
I was ranked fifth in the squad and generally played on board three, playing 11 out of the long 15 game season. On paper our team were of about average strength but unfortunately it didn’t go well for either the team or myself. I scored 5/11 with ten draws and one loss against opposition averaging 2573. Rather disappointing but I can take solace my only loss was straight after returning from New Zealand (arriving into London on Friday morning and leaving Friday afternoon) and in that game the team was going to lose 4.5-3.5 had I drawn so I had to go all-in. I also managed to salvage draws from some pretty unpleasant positions.
As for the team, we were pretty much up against it from the first weekend. There we played three games and didn’t manage to come away with any points, losing each match very narrowly. That set the tone for the entire season – our heaviest losses being 2.5-5.5 against Berlin and Werder Bremen and even there we had good chances until the very end. The problem was we failed to put away the weaker teams with three draws and four 3.5-4.5 defeats.
With four teams getting relegated we knew we were going down by the final weekend but still we fought to restore some of our pride and not finish bottom of the table. We defeated Katernberg 5.5-2.5 on the Saturday followed by a 4-4 draw with Mulheim on the Sunday.
On the Saturday, against Ilja Zaragatski, a 2476 IM, I sacrificed a pawn for the initiative but erred and my compensation dried up. By the time control I was probably lost but my opponent didn’t play accurately and let me off with a draw. On the Sunday I had Black against Alexander Berelowitsch, a Ukranian Grandmaster who now plays for Germany. After being slightly worse out of the opening I started to press and even went a pawn up in a rook and pawn endgame but couldn’t convert and we agreed a draw after six hours play.
These games followed a similar pattern for the season; against the lower rated guys I had gone wrong quite early and had to defend to hold the draw (in fact this happened against all 3IMs I played). In the game I lost against the young German GM Sebastian Bogner he equalised out of the opening and then I went for too much. However against the higher rated GMs I got very reasonable positions and never really had any problems – definitely something for me to think about and work on.
In the end our team finished 17th, although had the table been decided on game points rather than match points (i.e. if you win 8-0 you would get 8 points and if you win 4.5-3.5 you’d get 4.5 points – with match points you simply get 2 points for a win) then we would have been safe in 14th!
Meanwhile at the other end of the table Baden-Baden won yet another Bundesliga with +13 =1 –1, finishing two points ahead of their perennial rivals Werder Bremen and Solingen doing well to finish in third. You can see the final table here.
Apparently Werder Bremen’s team is not going to be as strong next year so it will be difficult to see who might challenge Werder Bremen’s dominance. I hope that they remain as strong as they have in recent times without so much competition. The final weekend saw World Champion Vishy Anand lead out the team but he suffered a surprising defeat to Dutch GM Sergey Tiviakov. White won this game very easily and, with Tiviakov using the repertoire I recommend in my How to Beat the Sicilian book, I couldn’t very well not show you guys the game!
Although the team is based in Remagen, and we played our home matches there, we normally meet up in Andernach. This is a very pretty old town on the Rhine and when I was there this Friday I took a few photos.
I’d like to thank Peter Noras the captain for all the time, effort and money he’s put into the team and apologise that we couldn’t quite deliver this year. I hope the team will bounce back and return to the top flight for the 2013-2014 season.