My Bundesliga Début

This weekend I travelled to Cologne-Bonn airport to make my first appearance for SC Remagen. Our manager, Peter Noras, kindly met me at the airport despite feeling unwell and gave me a lift to our headquarters in Andernach. We stayed the night there and then were ferried across the 120km or so to Mulheim where the Bundesliga was taking place. This was a pretty special occasion for the league. Normally the league is divided up into mini-matches with the four teams playing each other, each at separate venues. This time everyone was together so we got to see the might of the Baden Baden teams and Werder Bremen as well as Berlin’s super sub, Lev Aronian who arrived today on board 2 (a sneaky squad order) and defeated Laurent Fressinet with Black.

Typically Baden Baden and Werder Bremen are the two teams fighting for first but this year they’re certainly not getting it their own way. In round 1 Baden-Baden only scraped to victory against Trier (the team led by David Howell on 1 and with Ste Gordon and Stewart Haslinger also in the ranks) 4.5-3.5, while in round two they even lost by the same margin to Mulheim, the hosts of this first weekend who have a very strong team out themselves. It looked like the league was open for Werder Bremen but in round three, with some help from the World number three, Berlin trounced Bremen 6-2! The Bundesliga has a very good website where you can see all the games played so far.

Back to Remagen. In the first round we played Solingen with their large Dutch contingent. I had White against Jan Smeets who I’d played a few times before in the Staunton tournaments. I repeated the line I used to beat Berczes in the last round of the Barclays Open in Rome. I hadn’t really had time to check over those games so decided just to follow and see. Jan had seen the game here (!) but couldn’t remember exactly how it went. He used up a fair chunk of time but improved on move 17 when I had no advantage and the game resulted in a fairly dry draw.

At the first time control things were looking quite good for us. Our only IM Benjamin Bok, who will no doubt be a GM soon, defeated GM Naumann and the rest of us had drawn. Unfortunately on the other two lower boards we were overpowered, Petar Popovic going down after 64 moves. A loss 4.5-3.5. I was told before the weekend that last season we managed to lose 5 matches by this margin and we hoped it wouldn’t happen so often this year…

Round two was another tough one against recently promoted Hockenheim. They have Karpov on their books for board one and even without him playing they still had a strong squad with a lot of high rated young guys. Again the match got off to a good start with Alexander Goloshchapov winning a pawn in the opening. I equalised against David Baramidze in a Fianchetto Kings Indian but couldn’t drum up any winning chances and had another solid draw.

Unfortunately things started going wrong again. Tigran Gharamian missed something just out of the opening and got a horrible position. Robin Swinkels looked like he was going to put pressure on him opponent IM Martin Neubauer, but a few inaccurate moves saw him come up a quick attack, while Alexandre Dgebuadze got ground down in a opposite coloured bishop endgame. A loss 5-3 and we were starting to feel disheartened.

This is probably a good moment to point out quite how strong the Bundesliga is. Our team Remagen, with a 2670 on board one, 2630 on two and me on three, followed by 4 other GMs and one high rated IM would be clear favourites in the 4NCL but here we have to be careful not to get relegated!

Round three we played SC Eppingen, probably the strongest team on paper that we have faced. I had White against Viorel Bologan and was hoping for a repeat success. I beat him in a nice Bb5+ Sicilian in the European Individual Championships in Aix-les-bains. This time he opted for the Caro-Kann and I decided to start off solidly with the Two Knights. I built up a decent initiative and liked my position after 20.d5 but probably could have improved my play in the subsequent moves. He defended well and after he equalised I offered him a draw. However he tried to press and after a couple of inaccurate moves I was under some pressure. I think the game was always in the drawing zone but I had to be careful, eventually claiming a draw with my 77th move on repetition.

###pgn###[Event “Bundesliga Remagen vs Eppingen”] [Site “Sheffield ENG”] [Date “2011.10.16”] [Round “3”] [White “Jones, G.”] [Black “Bologan, V.”] [Result “1/2-1/2”] [ECO “B11”] [WhiteElo “2624”] [BlackElo “2657”] [PlyCount “152”] [EventDate “2011.07.25”] [EventType “swiss”] [EventRounds “11”] [EventCountry “ENG”] 1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3 Bg4 4. h3 Bxf3 5. Qxf3 Nf6 6. Be2 e6 7. O-O Nbd7 8. d4 dxe4 9. Nxe4 Nxe4 10. Qxe4 Nf6 11. Qd3 Bd6 12. b4 Qe7 13. Rb1 O-O 14. Bf3 Rfd8 15. Qb3 a5 16. bxa5 Rdb8 17. Bd2 Bc7 18. Rfd1 h6 19. c4 Qd8 20. d5 exd5 21. cxd5 Qd6 22. g3 Nxd5 23. Bxd5 cxd5 24. Rbc1 Qd7 25. Rc5 b6 26. Qxd5 Rd8 27. Qxd7 Rxd7 28. Rc2 bxa5 29. Rb1 Bd8 30. a4 Rd4 31. Ra2 g5 32. Rb5 Kh7 33. Be3 Rc4 34. Bb6 Bxb6 35. Rxb6 h5 36. Kg2 Kg7 37. Rb5 Kg6 38. Rb6+ f6 39. Ra3 g4 40. hxg4 hxg4 41. Ra1 Re8 42. Ra6 Re5 43. Ra8 Rc2 44. Rg8+ Kf5 45. Rh1 Rc4 46. Ra1 Ke6 47. Rg7 Re2 48. Ra7 Re5 49. Rg7 Rb4 50. Ra7 Kf5 51. Rg7 Rd5 52. Rg8 Rbd4 53. Ra8 Kg6 54. Rg8+ Kf7 55. Ra8 Rb4 56. Ra7+ Kg6 57. Ra6 Rb2 58. Ra8 Rf5 59. Rf1 Kf7 60. Ra7+ Ke6 61. Rg7 Rb4 62. Ra1 Rc5 63. Ra7 Rb2 64. Rg7 Rcc2 65. Rf1 Rb4 66. Ra1 Kf5 67. Ra7 Rc5 68. Rg7 Rb2 69. Ra7 Ke4 70. Rg7 Kf5 71. Ra7 Kg6 72. Ra8 Rf5 73. Rf1 Kg7 74. Ra7+ Kh6 75. Ra8 Kg7 76. Ra7+ Kg6 {and I wrote down 77. Ra8 and claimed the draw} 1/2-1/2%%%pgn%%%

Unfortunately the match was the same story as the other two. Petar blundered on bottom board while Sergey Fedorchuk got into bad time trouble against Ferenc Berkes (who has a rating of 2706) and blundered. Our hero Benjamin won again on board 7 in a fascinating game but that wasn’t enough and another 4.5-3.5 loss.
###pgn###[Event “Schachbundesliga 2011-12”] [Site “Muelheim GER”] [Date “19.14.27”] [Round “3.7”] [White “Bok, Benjamin”] [Black “Braun, Arik”] [Result “1-0”] [ECO “B12”] [WhiteElo “2488”] [BlackElo “2560”] [PlyCount “107”] [EventDate “2011.10.14”] [WhiteTeam “SC Remagen”] [BlackTeam “SC Eppingen”] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. dxc5 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. c3 e6 7. Be3 a6 8. Bd4 Bxf3 9. Qxf3 Qg5 10. Qe3 Qxe3+ 11. Bxe3 Nxe5 12. f4 Nd7 13. b4 g6 14. Bd4 f6 15. Nd2 Ne7 16. Nb3 Bh6 17. g3 e5 18. Be3 O-O-O 19. O-O-O Rhe8 20. Bd2 exf4 21. Nd4 Nc6 22. Nxc6 bxc6 23. Bxa6+ Kc7 24. Kb2 Ra8 25. Bf1 f5 26. Bxf4+ Bxf4 27. gxf4 Rab8 28. Kc2 Re4 29. Bd3 Rxf4 30. Rhe1 Rf2+ 31. Rd2 Ra8 32. Ra1 Rxd2+ 33. Kxd2 Ra3 34. Kc2 Ne5 35. Kb2 Ra8 36. Bf1 g5 37. a4 f4 38. Re1 Re8 39. Kb3 g4 40. b5 f3 41. b6+ Kb8 42. a5 h5 43. a6 Re7 44. a7+ Ka8 45. Ka4 Ng6 46. Rb1 Nf8 47. Kb4 h4 48. Bb5 cxb5 49. Ra1 Ne6 50. c6 Nd8 51. c7 Nc6+ 52. Kc5 Rxc7 53. bxc7 Ne7 54. Re1 1-0%%%pgn%%%

Not the start we were hoping for but we’ve played three strong teams and I’m sure we’ll get some points in the bag soon. I enjoyed my debut playing such strong players and felt Remagen have a good team spirit; we always wait for the final game to finish before having a team dinner, and Peter Noras was very helpful, even with his ill health. As I said to him last night, perhaps the team’s health is linked to his own so he better get well soon!

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