Reports Feb 22, 2021 | 9:53 PMby Colin McGourty

Grenke Bank win World Corporate Chess Championship

Alina Kashlinskaya and Inna Agrest grabbed the wins as Grenke Bank, led by Georg Meier, overcame Ian Nepomniachtchi’s SBER on Sunday to win the 1st FIDE Online World Corporate Chess Championship. 288 teams had been whittled down to just eight before the final day, and in the end the top two seeded teams made it to the final. 2nd seeds Grenke, one of just two teams to feature three female players, then pulled off an upset win.

They did it! Hanna Klek, Inna Agrest, Georg Meier & Alina Kashlinskaya after Grenke Bank beat top seeds SBER to win the final

You can replay all the games from the knockout section of the 1st FIDE Online World Corporate Chess Championship using the selector below.

The route to the final

The final day featured just the eight teams who had won their groups on the first two days of the event, so there was no longer any place for the likes of Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri. Ian Nepomniachtchi had scored 6/6 for top seeds SBER, but he got off to a bumpy start in the quarterfinals when he offered a draw just in time in the following position.

After 21.Ne4! it seems White has multiple ways to crash through, with ideas including playing f6 and then being ready to sacrifice with Bc4+ or Ng5 to break through with the white queen to g6. Accepting a draw in a complicated position against the world no. 4 was an understandable decision by Anuar Ismagambetov, but it allowed SBER to cruise into the semi-finals with wins on lower boards. 

Their semi-final opponents were their near namesakes Sberbank Trade Union, for whom the mercurial Anton Korobov was on top board. He grabbed one of two wins in the quarterfinals when Poland’s Tomasz Warakomski went for a tactic that would work on any online tactics trainer!

27.Bxb6? Bxb6 28.Rb4 looks as though it wins the piece back, but after 28...Rb8! it was time to resign. The problem? 29.Rxb6 runs into 29…Bxg2+ 30.Kxg2 Rxb6, winning an exchange and the game.

In the semi-final, however, Korobov was tamed by Nepomniachtchi, who correctly judged he could dominate positionally after an early exchange of queens. SBER also won on boards 3 and 4 to ease into the final.

In the other half of the draw Grenke Bank overcame Mexico’s Anahuac in the quarterfinals after wins for Georg Meier and Alina Kashlinskaya on the top two boards. The other quarterfinal match was the only match all day to go to a blitz tiebreak, after Ryosuke Nanjo’s last gasp swindle saw Morgan Stanley level the scores at 2:2 against PT Pelabuhan Tanjung Priok from Indonesia.

We would have gone to Armageddon if Nanjo had converted a winning position in the blitz playoff, but instead the Indonesians went through 2.5:1.5 after a move to regret for Levan Bregadze on top board.

There are just two legal moves for the black king, but the Georgian chose wrongly with 67…Kd5?, when 68.a8=Q+ came with check and it was game over even before mate appeared on the board a few moves later.

The semi-final between Grenke and Pelabuhan was every bit as tight, but it was ultimately decided by the blunder of a rook by Masruri Rahman against Hanna Klek. The other games were drawn, though Alina Kashlinskaya needed some luck and ingenuity to survive an objectively dead lost position.

The final showdown

Hanna Klek was again the hero in the first match of the two-match final as she scored a smooth win over 100 points higher-rated Maxim Lavrov. That cancelled out Georg Meier’s loss on top board, when it was Ian Nepomniachtchi who handled a mind-boggling position better.

Grenke Bank came within a whisker of taking the lead, but Inna Agrest took a draw by repetition in a position she could still have won by targeting the weak h3 and c3-pawns.

That 2:2 draw meant it all came down to a final rapid match with colours reversed. This time Meier managed to hold a tricky position against Nepomniachtchi, while blows were exchanged on the next two boards. 27.Ne6! was a bolt from the blue by Maxim Lavrov, leaving Black suddenly defenceless.

27…Re4 28.Rxf7! followed, when Hanna resigned with mate-in-2 unstoppable.

Not for the first time, Alina Kashlinskaya, Grenke’s one allowed player from outside the company, managed to completely turn around a difficult position until she was ready to launch a winning counterattack.

25.Nfxh5! gxh5 26.Nf5! Qf8 27.Qxh5 Bg7 28.Rf4! Re8 29.Rg4! Ng6 30.Bxg7!

The attack was as powerful as it was beautiful and Alexander Kadatsky soon had to resign.

That meant that everything ultimately came down to the last board, where Maria Komiagina had a winning position with an extra passed pawn against Inna Agrest. It all went wrong for Black, however, when she played 43…Rc8? after 16 seconds’ thought:

Attacking the queen is the most natural move in the world, but it ran into 44.Rd8+! Rxd8 45.Rxd8+ Kh7 46.Qf8 and mate was unstoppable.

Grenke Bank had upset the top seeds and deservedly won the World Corporate Chess Championship! German no. 5 Georg Meier, who works for Grenke as a Risk Controller, praised his teammates.

It was another chess success for Grenke, who organise the Grenke Chess Classic and Grenke Open as well as sponsoring the all-conquering Baden-Baden team. 

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