"Bundesliga": The new season begins

by Johannes Fischer
9/18/2015 – Club chess is strong in Germany. About 90.000 players are organised in the German Chess Federation and play from autumn to spring in various leagues for their clubs. The best teams start in the first league, the so-called Bundesliga. It is very strong, very traditional, and very international. This weekend the new season begins but the favorite remains the same.

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16 teams meet from September to April on seven weekends to play a 15-round all-play-all tournament. Each match is played on eight boards but each team can nominate 16 players - from any federation. Theoretically, the world's eight or ten or sixteen best players or the best players from China, Russia, France or any other country in the world could start for a German team.

At the end of the season the team with the most team-points is new German Team Champion, the four teams with the least number of points are relegated to the 2. Bundesliga. If two or more teams share the lead on team-points after the end of the regular season, tie-breaks are played. However, if team-points are equal at the lower end of the table, board points decide about relegation.

This mode is expensive. Apart from travel expenses and accomodation the teams which want to stay in the league or even dream of winning the event have to pay fees to attract strong players. According to the German wikipedia, which quotes an estimate of Christian Zickelbein, who for a long time has been a driving force in organising the Bundesliga, in 2011 the overall costs for all 16 clubs together amounted to about 1 Million Euros for the entire season.

Mr. Bundesliga: Christian Zickelbein has been working for years to promote chess.
He discovered and promoted a lot of young talents and for decades has been a
driving force behind the Bundesliga

In the past the high financial and organisational costs of the Bundesliga have again and again led clubs who had a right to play in the next season - either because they qualified in the 2. Bundesliga or because they were good enough to avoid relegation in the previous season - to waive this right. Thus, sometimes clubs which "officially" were relegated had a chance to stay in the league.

 The high number of costs, the format of playing on seven weekends with 16 teams, the unlimited number of non-German players each team can nominate, have often been criticised but the format of the Bundesliga has proven to be remarkable stable. It was established in 1980 and despite some minor reforms it has basically remained the same since then.

The favorite

The format is not the only constant in the Bundesliga. For the last ten years the winner has always been the OSG Baden-Baden. This year, the team which is sponsored by GRENKE Leasing, is again favorite. If Baden-Baden always played with their best team there would in fact be hardly any doubt that they would win their eleventh consecutive title - a team consisting of Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian, Michael Adams, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Peter Svidler, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Alexei Shirov, and Etienne Bacrot is simply hard to beat.

Vishy Anand - Baden-Baden's number one

However, Baden-Baden will not always be able or willing to bring their nominally best players at the boards. Thus, there are teams that might endanger the eleventh title of Baden-Baden. The teams from Bremen, Mülheim, Hockenheim, Schwäbisch Hall, and Solingen might challenge the dominance of Baden-Baden. Hockenheim has the first chance to do so: On Saturday, 19. September 2015, 14:00 CEST the first round of the Bundesliga season 2015/2016 begins with the match between Hockenheim and Baden-Baden. You can follow this and the other first-round matches on playchess.com or the official website of the Bundesliga (to avoid cheating attempts the games are transmitted with a 15-minute delay).

A well-known player: Hockenheim's first board

But Bundesliga fans do not have to wait till Saturday to see some action. Traditionally, the 16 teams in the league form eight travelling partners and the matches between these travelling partners are often played at a suitable time during the season. Officially Bayern München and the OSG Baden-Baden are scheduled to meet in the seventh round. But they decided to play the seventh round before the first and will meet on Friday, 18. September 2015, 16:00 CEST for the first match of the new season.


Official website of the Bundesliga

All-time table of the Bundesliga

Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".


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