The Bundesliga: World Champs and veterans

by Johannes Fischer
4/29/2018 – From Sunday through Tuesday, the German League's central finals takes place in Berlin. Solingen SG and the OSG Baden-Baden are fighting for first place. The unified Bundesliga has been around for 37 years, with the first season played in 1980 and 1981. At that time the Solingen SG won, after a tie against the team of SG Porz. There was a world champion among the participants. | Pictured: Boris Spassky, Chess Olympiad Thessaloniki 1984 | Photo: Gerhard Hund

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37 years of a unified German League

Boris Spassky has the distinction of being the first World Champion in the unified German League. Aside from the tenth World Champion, Mikhail Tal, Anatoly Karpov, Vladimir Kramnik, Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen have all also competed for various 'Bundesliga' clubs, but Spassky is and remains the most active Bundesliga player of all world champions, by far.

Altogether, Spassky played 119 games in the league (scoring 50 wins, 60 draws, 9 losses), almost exactly as much as all other World Champions combined: Tal played 19 games, Karpov played 13 times, Kramnik's total comes to 32 games, Anand rather more at 52, and finally Carlsen has made 10 appearances — that's a total of 126 games compared to Spassky's 119. [These and all the following statistical data refer to the years 1980 to 2017. The current season 2017/2018 is not taken into account.]

Spassky played his first game in the Bundesliga on October 12, 1980 — it was a triumph against the German FM Werner Nautsch.

W. Nautsch 0-1 B. Spassky

Spassky played for SG Solingen which, aside from the Hamburg Chess Club is the only club that has been there since the beginning of the unified Bundesliga, in every season. However, the Solingen squad has been more successful overall than Hamburg. As the complete table of the Bundesliga reveals, Solingen has scored more team match points than any other team, with a record of 834 : 268. The board score of the Solingen is also impressive — in 37 years of competition they've brought home 2702.5 board points, also more than any other team. However, they also conceded 1705.5 points, significantly more than the OSG Baden-Baden, which has racked up an impressive record over 14 years of 1266.5 : 525.5.

The OSG Baden-Baden is also the team that won the most titles in the 37 years of the league — eleven titles are so far, and they are the favourites to add a twelfth title on Tuesday, May 1st, at the conclusion of this year's season. The Solingen team hopes for their sixth title. This puts them currently in fourth place overall behind Bayern Munich (9 titles) and SG Porz (8 title wins).


Top four for Baden-Baden, round 13: Aronian, Vachier-Lagrave, Svidler, Adams | Photos: Pascal Simon

Most active players

Klaus Bischoff

The most active single player in German League history is Grandmaster Klaus Bischoff (pictured as a young man in a photo by the late GM Gisbert Jacoby). He has represented Bayern Munich for most of his Bundesliga career, although nowadays he's more often seen behind a microphone doing commentary than behind a chess board.

Bischoff celebrated his debut in the second season and played his first game on October 11th, 1981, for Bayern Munich — at that time still on board five. It was several years before he would become a grandmaster, in fact, he was not yet an IM in those days. Back then international players were unheard of. Now they are the norm.

Bischoff's first opponent was Eberhard Ehrler from SC Bamberg and the game ended in a draw after 51 moves.

E. Ehrler ½-½ K. Bischoff

All in all, through last season, Bischoff has been part of 458 wins, 214 draws and 76 losses. Second in the list of most active Bundesliga players is Stefan Kindermann (390 games, 119 wins, 204 draws and 67 defeats). Kindermann played already in the very first season and is still active — he plays for the MSA Zugzwang and has played in ten of the twelve rounds this season, heading into the final weekend.

Stefan Kindermann during the current season | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Lubomir Ftacnik follows in third place (369 games, 77 wins, 215 draws and 77 defeats).

Lubomir Ftacnik | Photo: Hartmut Metz

In fourth place is a lesser known Hamburg player, IM Thies Heinemann, with 359 games — 115 wins, 169 draws and 75 losses.

Heinemann during the eighth round | Photo: André Schulz

Unlike Kindermann, Bischoff, Ftacnik and Heinemann were not there from the beginning of the Bundesliga, but all three are still active and will probably continue to add points to there tally, including in the ongoing Central finals in Berlin.

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


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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