„Chess Sponsoring is a Business“
Interview: Wolfgang Grenke regards involvement with Chess Classic Mainz as a profitable investment for his leasing company
31.07.2005 - In Germany, nobody spends more money on chess than Grenke Leasing AG. The company from Baden-Baden sees specific business benefits resulting from approximately a quarter of a million Euro of sponsoring money. CEO Wolfgang Grenke, who supports one of the top teams in the German Bundesliga, the OSC Baden-Baden, will now also support the Chess Classic Mainz. The market leader in the leasing business in Germany donates up to Euro 25.000 and will be the new title sponsor for the rapid chess World Championship match between Viswanathan Anand (India) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia). Hartmut Metz spoke with Wolfgang Grenke about chess-sponsoring and asked which star players are still necessary for the OSC Baden-Baden to win the German Team Championship title. Question: Mr. Grenke, no company in Germany invests more money in chess than your Grenke Leasing AG. In addition to you being a strong club player, are there further reasons for this?
Grenke: This is not really about my own interest in chess. For Grenke Leasing, sponsoring is a business. We promote chess and in return, we receive support in our marketing activities, for example in the design of our annual reports – and of course in the form of additional publicity.
Question: Supposedly, the OSC Baden-Baden receives approximately Euro 200.000 per year. In addition to this you support the chess club in Bischwiller, just behind the French border in Alsace, as well as chess in schools in Baden-Württemberg and the Karpov Chess School in Baden-Baden. Will these sums pay off for Grenke Leasing AG?
Grenke: The OSC and the Karpov Chess School have to share an amount below Euro 200.000. It is true that our French subsidiary supports the chess club in Bischwiller. Investments in marketing are very difficult to calculate, but we have been and are still convinced that this sponsoring pays off.
Question: For the first time, you are part of the Chess Classic Mainz as a title sponsor. Is that due to your ties to world No. 1, Viswanathan Anand, who plays first board at OSC?
Schach als Thema für den Geschäftsbericht
Grenke: The Chess Classic Mainz is, without a doubt, a chess event that is very interesting and also well received by the public. Our support is a result of an initiative of the organiser Hans-Walter Schmitt who visits the OSC regularly at Bundesliga meetings.
Question: This time, Viswanathan Anand will play the eight game match for the Rapid World Championship, the Grenke Leasing Championship, against Alexander Grischuk. Grischuk has won the Ordix Open in Mainz twice – but does he have a chance against your top gun Anand?
Grenke: As the new No. 1 in the world and because of his strength in rapid chess, Vishy is probably favourite to win the match. My prediction is a 5:3 final result.
Question: In the Rheingoldhalle, there will be many of top GMs whom you know personally and against whom you have played in simultaneous exhibitions. I am thinking, for example, about Anatoly Karpov and Victor Kortchnoi. 80 year old Wolfgang Unzicker has also been to Baden-Baden as a guest. Which of the top players has impressed you most and in what way?
Grenke: Without disrespect to anybody: when I started to play chess, Wolfgang Unzicker was the strongest German player. Of course, his games were all replayed. But what impressed me particularly was that he was always a positive example, also as a human being.
Question: Would you blindly entrust a top chess player with a leading role within Grenke Leasing, in case he wanted to change his line of work?
Grenke: No – to be a strong chess player alone is not sufficient. In addition, chess players differ too much from each other as humans. At Grenke Leasing, we put great emphasis on team play, which is rarely trained by playing chess.
Question: In addition to Anand, your second top-ten GM, Peter Svidler, will play in Mainz. Peter hasn’t lost a single game when playing for OSC. Will he defend his title as Chess960 World Champion against Zoltan Almasi from Hungary?
Grenke: Peter Svidler is of course very important for the OSC. I would be very happy to see him defend his title.
Question: In the late seventies, you recognised the future that leasing may offer and built an enterprise starting out of your living room which is now worth about half a billion Euro. As a far sighted corporate leader, how do you view the future of Chess960, where the starting positions of the pieces are determined by chance?
Grenke: I do not know enough about Chess960 to answer that question. I have been told that certain starting positions result in an immediately inferior position. Maybe those starting positions should be excluded, potentially leading to greater attractiveness. As far as I am concerned, I will remain loyal to traditional chess.
Sponsor Grenke (Mitte), Spieler Anand (links), Schachmacher Schmitt
Foto: Hartmut Metz
Question: The women’s chess team of Baden-Baden has not lost a single game on the national level since it was founded five years ago, and has won the German Team Championship in its class three times in a row, but you decided to cut the budget. Instead, the men’s team was upgraded once more, with the top-ten player Etienne Bacrot from France and the Dane Peter Heine Nielsen. Shouldn’t that be sufficient to win the title, after ending up in the third place last year?
Grenke: Fortunately for our sport, there are always surprises. On paper, Bremen did not have a chance against Porz. Nevertheless, Bremen defeated Porz not once, but twice. But of course, I do hope that the OSC will fare better than last year.
Question: And what if it does work out again? Topalov, Leko, Ivanchuk and Kramnik do not play in the Bundesliga so far…
Grenke: As far as this is concerned, the budget does create certain limits for the club. Chess is not a team sport in the true sense of the word, but nevertheless, the team should be homogeneous. Not all strong players fit well into a team.
Guess who is coming to dinner?
Foto: Harmut Metz
Hartmut Metz / Translation: Mark Vogelgesang
Published by Mark Vogelgesang
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