by Ian Rogers
The strongest club competition in the world, the German Bundesliga, ended earlier this month with Baden-Baden securing their tenth consecutive title.
Baden-Baden’s dominance is not surprising given some of the names on their roster: Anand, Aronian, Svidler, Adams, Shirov heading a list which includes 16 Grandmasters. (2014 Doeberl Cup Champion Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu manages a spot on board ten and was only used in 8 of the season’s 15 games.)
However this year Baden-Baden was pushed hard by an unlikely rival, Bremen.
Bremen drew their head-to-head match 4-4 and even though their challenge faded towards the end of the season, Bremen nonetheless finished five match points clear of third placed Hockenheim.
Bremen’s star was a player making his debut in the Bundesliga – Australia’s David Smerdon.
Smerdon, 30, started the season as second reserve for the team from north Germany but after a strong first weekend was called up for 12 of the team’s 15 matches.
Over the six month season Smerdon was undefeated and scored 9.5/12 against opposition which included 5 fellow Grandmasters. Smerdon’s final performance level was above the super-Grandmaster 2700 rating and he has edged extremely close to overtaking Zhao Zong Yuan as Australia’s number one.
Australians participating in the Bundesliga have been few and far between but Smerdon’s appearance became possible when he moved to Europe to study for a Masters and PhD in economics. (Previously Smerdon had worked at Treasury in Canberra.)
Relocating to the Netherlands for four years has enabled the Queenslander to compete in various club competitions but the stint in the Bundesliga has been his most productive.
Bundesliga matches are played on weekends – one game on Saturday afternoon and one on Sunday morning – meaning that Smerdon can easily commute to matches from Amsterdam and not miss university commitments.
Smerdon provided plenty of highlights for his team, including a remarkable 117 move defensive effort against France’s Anthony Wirig from a position many players would have resigned. However Smerdon’s most convincing win was the following game against one of Germany’s many strong young Grandmasters.
Opening: Giuoco Piano