The term Chess Bundesliga (German: Schach-Bundesliga) normally refers to the premier league of team chess in Germany. It is arguably the strongest and longest running league of its kind, attracting many top grandmasters from all over the world.
Austria also has a Bundesliga for chess, usually described as the Bundesliga OST (for Österreich), but for the purposes of this article, reference is made only to the German league.
Sixteen teams are made up of squads of up to 16 players, from which the manager selects a match-day team of eight, depending on rating, form and of course, availability. Team members may be male or female, but there is also a separate Bundesliga for women's chess.
The season starts in October and ends in April. Venues for matches alternate between the participating clubs to minimise or equalise travel commitments for players. Many of the titled professionals are paid an appearance fee and/or travel expenses.
Each playing weekend normally comprises two matches for each team, played on consecutive days. Hence, four venues play host to two matches on each of the two days. Over the course of the season there are 15 rounds, in order that all teams play each other once.
Prior to the commencement of the season, reigning champions OSC Baden-Baden started as runaway favourites - their impressive squad was topped by eight players averaging a hefty Elo rating of 2709.
The eight players in question were: Viswanathan Anand, Peter Svidler, Alexei Shirov, Étienne Bacrot, Magnus Carlsen, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, Pendyala Harikrishna and Francisco Vallejo Pons. The remaining squad members ensured that absent star players were not missed too much. Top quality GMs Peter Heine Nielsen, Sergei Movsesian and Michał Krasenkow were just three of the players standing by.
Based on Elo rating, the closest threat to the champions were likely to be SG Porz, TSV Bindlach-Aktionar and Werder Bremen. Predictably, OSC Baden-Baden successfully defended their title, whereas Werder Bremen faded badly after a good start and so a close fight developed for the remaining places. Unexpectedly, Hamburger SK confounded the ratings to take second place, due to sterling performances by a number of their players. The team's Polish contingent Radosław Wojtaszek and Robert Kempiński, both scored heavily and Kempinski went through the entire season without losing a game, despite playing every round. Lower down the order, Germans Dirk Sebastian and Thies Heinemann also contributed well.
SG Porz and TSV Bindlach-Aktionar finished in third and fourth places respectively, with outstanding performances coming from Loek van Wely (also undefeated) for Porz and Vladimir Baklan and David Baramidze for Bindlach.
Teams finishing in the top four places in recent seasons were as follows: