Chess: US giants fail as Grenke Bank win first World Corporate Championship


Germany’s Grenke Bank won last weekend’s inaugural World Corporate Championship when a last-minute back-rank mate from a lost position in the final defeated the top-seeded Russians, SBER, led by the world No 4, Ian Nepomniachtchi.

The entry of 288 teams was far above expectations, and included many famous names. To allow for time differences, there were six preliminary groups based on Europe and two based on the US. The last two were filled with global mega-companies, but the group winners were from Mexico and Indonesia.

Teams had to include at least one male and one female player. One guest per team was allowed but all others had to work for the company and be rated below 2500, grandmaster level.

Grenke’s backing has already made Baden-Baden, which houses its headquarters, the leading club team in Europe and perennial winners of the Bundesliga, while the company also sponsors the annual elite Grenke Classic where Carlsen often plays, plus the huge Grenke Open. Their weekend team of four included three women, all of them grandmasters or masters.

Magnus Carlsen was in action too. He represented Kindred, the Norwegian betting company which, through Unibet, sponsors the world champion. Kindred has offices in Wimbledon, so Carlsen played under an English flag. He scored 5.5/6, while Jasper Tambini, Kindred’s second board and a former England junior international, totalled 5/6, but Kindred’s lower boards were outclassed.

Carlsen’s first opponent was an Indian amateur who had no idea he was playing the world champion until a few minutes before the start. He was duly crushed, but said afterwards: “This game is going on my CV for sure, and now that my bosses like me maybe I should ask for a good appraisal”.

Last weekend was also the 2021 online edition of Bunratty, the Irish weekend congress which has a global reputation for its high calibre open tournament in a social ambiance. More than 250 entered, including England’s four-man Olympiad team, the eight-time Russian champion and popular commentator Peter Svidler, and America’s Joel Benjamin of Deep Blue fame. The sponsor Blackthorne International Transport provided a $600 first prize.

David Howell won with 8/10, half a point ahead of Gawain Jones and Svidler, who were placed second and third on tie-break. The talking point was an unknown player rated below 1700, though still in the top half of the very large entry, who in rounds three to five defeated, no, trounced in succession England’s best-known junior, Shreyas Royal, 12, Romania’s No 1 woman, IM Irina Bulmaga, and England’s No 8, GM Nick Pert.

Then, on 5/5 with one of the top seeds due as his next opponent, the player … withdrew from the tournament. It remains to be seen what, if any, repercussions follow. The game against Bulmaga looks like something from Paul Morphy or Mikhail Tal.

3712: 1 Qd7+! Kg6 (if K other the mate is trivial) 2 f5+! Qxf5 3 Qg7+ Kh5 4 g4+! Qxg4 5 Qh7 mate.

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