Reports Feb 26, 2014 | 2:15 AMby GM Jan Gustafsson

Vishy Anand and the Yellow King

If you've ever found your eyes glazing over while reading a conventional report on a chess league, this is for you! chess24's resident GM Jan Gustafsson annotates last weekend's victory for team-mate Vishy Anand, but he also gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into what these events are really about. Read on for answers to such questions as, "Why does Magnus Carlsen no longer play for Baden-Baden?" and "Who is the Yellow King?" 

League Chess

What's the main difference between a chess pro and a football pro?

No, it's not the lack of dice in football, Lukas!

Sure, there is the money factor. But, more importantly, a chess player is allowed to represent more than one club team at a time. In case US readers are wondering what I'm talking about, in Europe we have this thing called chess clubs. 

They build teams of typically 6-8 players and compete against one another in different leagues. It's quite common for a chess player to represent a club in Austria, one in Germany, one in Holland, one in Spain, one in Switzerland, one in France and... you get the idea. The Latvian Grandmaster Igors Rausis once told me he used to play for 15 clubs at a time.

How does that work? Most club competitions take place over a series of weekends during which teams get together and play 2-3 matches against each other. So you spend one weekend playing the Swiss league, then play the German Bundesliga the next, squeeze in a game in Holland after that, rinse and repeat. Every once in a while you might face a choice - do I play the Bundesliga or the Liga Catalana this weekend? 


Last weekend rounds 9 and 10 were played in the Bundesliga. This German league is the strongest of the bunch - we aren't counting the powerful Spanish and Russian leagues here as they're played in a different format where the teams get together in one place for a week or two and play all their games in a row.

The kingpins of the Bundesliga happen to be my team, OSG Baden-Baden.

The Baden-Baden team after winning the title in 2013 | photo: Georgios Souleidis

Having won the title eight years in a row, we're going for the nine-peat this year. 

Now it isn't a coincidence, of course. Unlike the other teams Baden-Baden even features some veritable superstars, with Anand and Aronian as the top boards (Magnus Carlsen used to be in the line-up until last year as well, but allegedly left since he really disliked those Sunday morning rounds starting at 10 am...)

This is special, since the really big guys normally don't participate in the league circuit described above. They're busy playing in super tournaments, preparing for super tournaments, modelling, studying jazz or the stars. And frankly, they're less dependant on the income that playing for multiple teams can provide than other chess professionals (the guys from 2500-2750).

Baden-Baden is no exception to that rule, and Anand and Aronian hadn't played at all yet this season.
They weren't all that needed, either, as the rest of the crew had been dominating the league and won all their matches so far, as you can see here. 

Vishy's weekend

It's still good to have them around once in while, so it was exciting to see Vishy given his season's debut last weekend. 

Anand representing Baden-Baden | photo: Georgios Souleidis

In his first game an instructive endgame arose against Austrian star Markus Ragger.

57. ♔d7 The players got here after a complicated game where Ragger had been trying for a while to build a fortress to hold the draw against the mighty white queen. This turns out to be a theoretical draw, but only one move holds!

57... ♖f5?  That's not it. The narrow and instructive path to the draw was

57... ♖g6! and White can't make any progress. Instructive tricks include 58. ♔e7 (58. ♕c5 ♔g7 59. ♕e5+ ♔g8 60. ♕b8+ ♔h7 61. ♕f8 ♖g4 62. ♔e7 ♖e4+! 63. ♔f6 ♖e6+ 64. ♔f5 ♖f6+ 65. ♔g5 ♖g6+ 66. ♔h5 ♖f6 and White can make no further progress. According to Anand, both players saw Rg6, but Ragger erroneously assumed that he could always return to that idea.) 58... ♖g8!  trapping the queen 59. ♕xf7+ ♖g7

58. ♕d6! Cutting the rook off.

58... ♖g5 59. ♕f4 A sign that something has gone wrong - the rook can't make it back to the 6th rank where it was anchored by the pawn. Anand converts effortlessly from here.

59... ♔g6  It was too late for

59... ♖g6 now because of 60. ♔e7! when there are no more stalemate tricks after e.g. 60... ♖e6+ 61. ♔xf7 ♖f6+ 62. ♔xf6!

60. ♔e7 ♖f5 61. ♕g4+ ♖g5 62. ♕e4+ ♖f5 63. ♕d3 ♔g5 64. ♕g3+ ♔h5 65. ♔e8 ♔h6 66. ♕g4 ♖f6 67. ♔f8 I was surprised Ragger resigned here, but actually it isn't too early - the rook will be lost. Try finding a square for it.


A draw with Black on Sunday rounded off Vishy's weekend.


The team maintains a perfect score and is a comfortable four match points ahead of the competition.

Five rounds to go!

1OSG Baden-Baden1010002063
2SV 1930 Hockenheim107211649.5
3Werder Bremen108021649
4SC Eppingen107211649
5SV Mülheim Nord107121544
6SG Solingen106131340.5
7Hamburger SK105231245
8SK Turm Emsdetten105051043.5
9SG Trier105051040
10SV Wattenscheid 193010415940.5
11SF Katernberg10415937
12SF Berlin 190310127432
13SV Griesheim10118330.5
14FC Bayern München10118328
15SK König Tegel10118326
16SC Viernheim10019122.5

As you might have seen, Baden-Baden also happens to be filled with chess 24 collaborators, featuring Peter Svidler, Paco Vallejo, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and yours truly in addition to Anand himself.

Not all of us got to play last weekend,

  • Peter Svidler is somewhere in the Russian woods preparing for the Candidates
  • Paco Vallejo had an assignment in the Catalan league (he drew with Kiril Georgiev)
  • Jan Gustafsson was afraid to miss Episode 6 of HBO's True Detective while stuck in a train on Sunday afternoon.

Ok, that might not be entirely true, but seriously, how great is that show?

True Detective

I find it hard to focus on anything else these days.

  • Who is the Yellow King?
  • Where is Carcosa?
  • Could Marty be the killer?
  • What is this show really about?
  • How did Matthew McConaughey become the best actor alive? Isn't that the dude from Sahara?
  • Has there ever been a better action sequence on TV than this one? I can't recall anything that compares.

Unfortunately, my obsession is not shared around the office. When asking around about the Yellow King, this is what I got:

Nope, that's not him.

And I don't think it's Marty, either.

Reverend Tuttle, anybody?

How many days left till Sunday?

Two more episodes...

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