Caruana Returns to Board, Leads Baden-Baden to Bundesliga Crown

Fabiano Caruana found his way back to familiar ground: Winning, over the board. 

While the world champion and other American stars battled it out online in Saint Louis Chess Club events last week, World No. 2 Caruana was hoisting an actual trophy in Karlsruhe, Germany after leading team OSG Baden-Baden to victory in the 2020 Schachbundesliga finals. The German Chess League, renowned as one of the strongest in the world, put together a live seven-round team event to determine this year’s champion after its season was interrupted because of COVID-19 last spring.


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Upwards of 50 GMs turned out in Germany for the voluntary event, most of whom were returning to physical boards and pieces for the first time since March, representing eight of the league’s 16 international teams. But while a return to OTB chess may have inspired what proved to be a lively event, the end result was perhaps expected: OSG Baden-Baden has been crowned champions of the Bundesliga all but once in the past 15 years, and this year’s squad featured three of the world’s top-10 players -- including Caruana as top board, French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Armenian GM Levon Aronian. 

Despite the forgone conclusions, the tournament was a thriller until the end, with Baden-Baden not claiming the crown until a final round matchup with SC Viernheim to decide the winner. That seventh-round match saw draws on each of the top five boards, leaving the lower three boards to decide fate. Baden-Baden ultimately won the match 4.5-3.5, as Viernheim settled for second place overall. 

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For his part, Caruana played in five of the seven matches and finished with two wins, two draws and a fourth-round loss to Dutch GM Erwin L’Ami. The super-GM will continue OTB chess from here, planning to play with Aronian and world champion GM Magnus Carlsen in the six-player, double-round robin Altibox Norway Chess tournament, which begins October 5. Beyond, the 2020 Candidate’s Tournament is scheduled to resume on November 1.

[pgn][Event "ch-Schachbundesliga 2020"] [Site "Karlsruhe GER"] [Date "2020.09.18"] [Round "4.1"] [Board "1"] [White "L'Ami, Erwin"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2620"] [BlackElo "2835"] [ECO "D37"] [Opening "QGD"] [Variation "4.Nf3"] [WhiteTeam "SG Solingen"] [BlackTeam "OSG Baden-Baden"] [WhiteFideId "1007998"] [BlackFideId "2020009"] [EventDate "2020.09.16"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 h6 5. Bf4 Bb4 6. cxd5 Nxd5 7. Bd2 O-O 8. g3 Nxc3 9. bxc3 Ba5 10. g4 c5 11. Rg1 Nc6 12. dxc5 e5 13. Qc2 Re8 14. g5 g6 15. gxh6 e4 16. Ng5 Bf5 17. O-O-O Qf6 18. Bh3 e3 19. Bxf5 exd2+ 20. Rxd2 Re5 21. Nxf7 Qxf7 22. Bxg6 Qxf2 23. Bf7+ Kh8 24. Qg6 Rg5 25. Rxg5 Bxc3 26. Kc2 Ne7 27. Qe4 Bf6 28. Re5 Rf8 29. e3 Qf1 30. Bc4 Qa1 31. Rxe7 Qc3+ 32. Kd1 Qa1+ 33. Kc2 Qc3+ 34. Kd1 Qa1+ 35. Ke2 Bxe7 36. Qd4+ Qxd4 37. exd4 Rf4 38. Bd5 Bf6 39. Ke3 Rh4 40. Rd3 Rh3+ 41. Kd2 Rxh2+ 42. Kc3 Kh7 43. Bxb7 Rxa2 44. Kb3 Ra1 45. c6 Bd8 46. d5 Ba5 47. d6 Rc1 48. Rd5 Bd8 49. Rd4 1-0 [/pgn]

Also appearing in the Bundesliga was five-time U.S. Champion GM Gata Kamsky, who led Schachfreunde Deizisau to a third-place showing as its top board. Kamsky played six matches and finished with two wins and two draws, and met Caruana for this game in the tournament’s opening round. 

[pgn][Event "ch-Schachbundesliga 2020"] [Site "Karlsruhe GER"] [Date "2020.09.16"] [Round "1.1"] [Board "1"] [White "Kamsky, Gata"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2674"] [BlackElo "2835"] [ECO "A48"] [Opening "King's Indian"] [Variation "East Indian defence"] [WhiteTeam "Schachfreunde Deizisau"] [BlackTeam "OSG Baden-Baden"] [WhiteFideId "2000024"] [BlackFideId "2020009"] [EventDate "2020.09.16"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c3 Bg7 4. Bg5 O-O 5. Nbd2 h6 6. Bh4 d6 7. e4 c5 8. d5 Nbd7 9. Bd3 Nh5 10. O-O Nf4 11. Bc2 b5 12. Rb1 Nf6 13. Re1 Qc7 14. Nf1 e5 15. dxe6 Bxe6 16. Bg3 N6h5 17. Qd2 Nxg3 18. hxg3 Nh5 19. Bb3 c4 20. Bc2 Rfe8 21. Rbd1 Rad8 22. Nd4 Bg4 23. Ra1 Qc5 24. Ne3 Nf6 25. a4 a6 26. axb5 axb5 27. Nxg4 Nxg4 28. Bd1 Nf6 29. Bf3 Nd7 30. Nc2 Qg5 31. Qxg5 hxg5 32. Ra5 Rb8 33. Rd1 Nf6 34. Rxd6 g4 35. e5 Rxe5 36. Bc6 Re2 37. Nd4 Re1+ 38. Kh2 Kh7 39. Ra8 Rxa8 40. Bxa8 Rb1 41. Nxb5 Rxb2 42. Bc6 Rxf2 43. Kg1 Rc2 44. Rd4 Bh6 45. Rxc4 Be3+ 46. Kf1 Nh5 47. Rxg4 f5 48. Rh4 Kg7 49. Rh3 Bf2 50. Rxh5 gxh5 51. Nd6 Bc5 52. Nxf5+ Kf6 53. Nh4 Rxc3 54. Be8 Kg5 55. Nf3+ Kh6 56. Bd7 Rc1+ 57. Ke2 Rc2+ 58. Kf1 Rf2+ 59. Ke1 Rxg2 60. Nh4 Rb2 61. Kf1 Rf2+ 62. Ke1 Kg5 63. Bh3 Kf6 64. Bd7 Ra2 65. Kf1 Bd6 66. g4 hxg4 67. Bxg4 Kg5 68. Nf5 Bc5 69. Bh3 Rf2+ 70. Ke1 Rh2 0-1 [/pgn]



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