The Grenke Group, with headquarters in Baden-Baden, has been a long-time loyal supporter of chess in Germany: they are after all the backers of the reigning Bundesliga champions and sponsor the “Grenke Chess Classic”, one of the country’s top elite tournaments. So with this impressive CV in the game, fittingly Grenke Bank, their financial services arm, emerged victorious to win the first-ever FIDE Online World Corporate Championship hosted on chess.com on Sunday.
A total of 288 teams took part from 78 countries, in this innovative – and to be welcomed – new event from the game’s global body, that brought together 1,467 players. There were many titled players who are not pros and directly employed by the companies who took part, and among them, there were 36 Grandmasters, headed by World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who not only fully supported this Fide initiative but also played on top board for Kindred, the Norwegian gambling parent company that sponsors him through Unibet.
But to ensure fair-play and see that no teams were packed with ‘ringers’, safeguards were in place in the 4-player team event: Only one professional player could be invited, meaning that the other three had to be directly employed by the company; only one player could be rated over 2500; and each team had to have at least one female and one male player.
Eight teams emerged from the group pool stages to contest Sunday’s KO finals. And in a very close race that went to the wire of a deciding playoff tiebreak match following a 2-2 tie (thanks to Hanna Maria Klek stunning win in today’s game) with SBER – headed by world No.4, Ian Nepomniachtchi – the German bankers defied the odds to edge out the Russian bank top seeds to capture the inaugural corporate crown.
Grenke was one of the only two teams in the entire competition to field three women players: IM Alina Kashlinskaya (invited pro), WGM Hanna Marie Klek (deputy team leader operational banking) and WIM Inna Agrest (project manager), playing alongside top board GM Georg Meier (risk controller) and Sven Noppes (board member).
The list of participating teams taking part was impressive, including corporate giants like Amazon, Samsung, Ford, Microsoft, Gazprom, Facebook, Siemens, Dell Technologies, Bosch, Airbus, IBM, Boeing, Sony, Intel, ArcelorMittal, Equinor, HP, Twitter, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Vodafone, American Express, Deutsche Bank, UBS, Oracle, Credit Suisse, and Airbnb – just to name a few Fide highlighted from the Fortune Global list.
WGM Hanna Maria Klek – IM Maxim Lavrov
Grenke vs SBER
FIDE Online World Corporate Championship Final, (Bd.3)
Scotch Four Knights
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 d5 8.exd5 cxd5 9.0-0 0-0 10.h3 c6 11.Qf3 Bd6 12.Re1 h6 13.Bf4 Rb8 It’s a typical Scotch Four Knights position, and apart from hitting b2 there’s an ulterior motive for this rook move. 14.b3 Rb4 And this is it, bringing the rook into the game via b4 to attack f4. 15.Ne2 Bxf4 Slightly better is the option of 15…c5 16.c3 Rb7 where the rook has designs on swinging over to e7 with equality. In the process, any advantage White might even possibly have is a very minuscule one down to the split queenside pawns – but we’re clutching at endgame straws here. 16.Nxf4 Qd6 17.c4 Ba6 18.Rad1 Qc7?! There was nothing really in the position, but as we’ll soon discover, better was the full retreat with 18…Qb8 defending the rook. 19.Nh5 Nxh5 20.Qxh5 dxc4 21.Qc5! This is what Black overlooked when he played 18…Qc7 – and with it, suddenly he has to be wary of many tactics. 21…Rbb8 A humbling retreat, but forced nevertheless as Black has to be careful not to walk into the trap of 21…Rb5? 22.Bh7+! Kxh7 23.Qxf8 winning. 22.bxc4 Both sides have nearly symmetrical split pawns on the queenside – but Black’s make for the bigger sitting targets, and he’s going to have his work cut out trying to defend any endgame scenario. But that’s long-term thinking, because right now more worrying for Black is the lack of coordination between his pieces, especially the bishop sitting offside on a6. 22…Qf4?! Life was getting difficult for the higher-rated Lavrov with White’s commanding central advantage, but this just hastens his demise. His best try to hold on was 22…Rbd8 23.Qf5 g6 24.Qf6 Qd6 25.Qc3 but even here Black’s position looks unpleasant, to say the least. 23.Re4 The engines will tell you that the better continuation was 23.Qa3! Bb7 (Again not 23…Bc8?? 24.Bh7+!) 24.Qxa7 but in reality, the text was the all-too human move to make here, as Klek dramatically swings her rooks into the attack. 23…Qf6 24.Re3 Ra8? Black is drinking in The Last Chance Saloon by defending a7 – his only hope was 24…Rbd8 25.a4 Bc8 26.Rf3 Qg5 27.Qxc6 and try to hang on here. But the ending sans a pawn and a bad position looks doomed. 25.Rf3 Qe6 26.Re3 Qf6 27.Rde1! Klek rightly is not interested repeating moves and a draw, as she has an overwhelming position. 27…Rfd8 It was not too late to admit the errors of your way and play 27…Rad8 28.Qxa7 Bc8 – but Black quickly capitulates now after the text. 28.Rf3 With h7 covered plus potential back-rank mating threats, there’s also the speculative queen sacrifice punt 28.Qxa7!? – but if Black has his wits about him, then he can unravel a bit with 28…Qd6! 29.Qb6 Rdb8 30.Qa5 c5 and there’s still a fighting chance to save the game. Hence the reason for Klek not being attracted by the ‘glitter’ on a7 – she wants the clean kill that her wonderfully placed pieces offer! 28…Qg5 29.Qxc6 Qd2 30.Qe4 All the planets are now aligned for the thematic sacrificial breakthrough. 30…g6 31.Rb1 Klek takes the safety-first way to victory – the stone-cold killer blow was 31.Rxf7!! Kxf7 32.Qxg6+ Kf8 33.Qf6+ Kg8 34.Bh7+! that soon forces mate. 31…Re8? Black is in a bad way, but he could have prolonged the game with 31…Rac8 – but now he goes down in flames. 32.Qc6 Qa5 33.Bxg6! [see diagram] With all her assets in prime position to strike, Klek swiftly moves in for the kill. 33…Re1+ The bishop is taboo, as Black quickly gets mated after 33…fxg6 34.Qxg6+ Kh8 35.Qxh6+ Kg8 36.Rg3+ Qg5 37.Rxg5+ Kf7 38.Rg7+ Kf8 39.Qh8#. 34.Rxe1 Qxe1+ 35.Kh2 Qe5+ 36.Rg3 Not only defending against the check but also setting up a big discovered check that can’t be defended against. 36…Rb8 37.Bd3+ Kh8 Lavrov opts to hang for the sheep as the lamb, as no better was 37…Kf8 38.Qxh6+ Ke7 39.Qxa6 and a heavy loss of material. 38.Qxh6# 1-0