Chess Classic

Ian Nepomniachtchi GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship
GM Ian Nepomniachtchi – ORDIX-Opensieger 2008
31.7.-2. August 2009, 18:30 Uhr, Rheingoldhalle Mainz

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July 27- Aug 2nd, 2009 Rheingoldhalle, Mainz
Chess Classic Mainz 2009 (CCM9)
14. GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship
GM V. Anand, GM L. Aronian, GM I. Nepomniachtchi, GM A. Naiditsch



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Chess Classic

"Sustainability is not achieved through individual events but through continuous work."

24.06.2008 - Wolfgang Grenke is CEO of GrenkeLeasing AG, which went to the stock exchange in 2000 and leases machines for office communication. Since its foundation in 1978 the company has grown continuously. Today is has more than 400 employees and representatives in 21 countries. As sponsor of the OSC Baden Baden Grenke has built an elite team on which a number of international stars play. This year the team became German Team Champion for the third time in a row and also won the German Cup. The women's team also won the Championship again. On top of that, as being the sponsor and name-giver of the GrenkeLeasing Rapid World Championship the company also supports the Chess Classic Mainz. Harry Schaack talked with the successful manager about the upcoming Chess Classic, sponsoring and the development of chess in Germany. (English version: Johannes Fischer)

QUESTION: Mr. Grenke, you have been sponsoring the Rapid Chess World Championship of the Chess Classic in Mainz since 2005. However, you mainly support projects in your region. The Chess Classic is an exception. What was and is your reason to support this tournament?

Wolfgang Grenke: Crucial was my close connection to Hans-Walter Schmitt, who is not only the organizer of the Chess Classic, but also a member of our club OSC Baden Baden. We absolutely wanted to support the professional way in which Hans Walter Schmitt manages to get such events going. Moreover, in sponsoring we did not want to exclusively focus on our region, even though our emphasis still lies here. I think with the Chess Classic we do have an adequate stage to receive world wide attention with our sponsoring.
As far as I can see the Chess Classic has received even more public attention than before in recent years. This in itself justifies our commitment.

How do you personally experience the Chess Classic?

The Chess Classic always creates a great and professional atmosphere, comparable to other international big events. Of course, this is due to Hans-Walter Schmitt. If one gave him more opportunities to implement his ideas, one could trigger a number of positive developments in Germany. The Chess Classic shows that professionalism counts for a lot in chess. One should concentrate and focus such strengths adequately.

Wolfgang Grenke

You are a passionate chess player yourself. Did you ever consider playing in one of the Open Tournaments of the Chess Classic?

That is not that easy. I barely manage to play my club matches. The only disadvantage I can see in chess is that it takes a lot of time. Of course, you can play rapid chess as is done in the Chess Classic but this is not quite my world. I prefer long games. Here opportunities and interests clash.

But you follow the events during the Chess Classic?

Of course. Much more so because players from our club are regularly in the center of attention.

What do you expect from this year's event? Do you think Anand will win against Carlsen, Morozevich and Polgar to win the title of World Rapid Champion again and for the eleventh time?

The problem is that every series comes to an end eventually - you only don't know when. Of course, World Champion Vishy Anand is still the outstanding rapid chess player. But Magnus Carlsen, who also plays for us in Baden Baden, has developed again considerably over the last months and thus I expect a close battle. Moreover, Vishy is pretty occupied with his preparations for the difficult World Championship match against Vladimir Kramnik. Thus, he might not be able to prepare himself as meticulously for the Chess Classic as he used to do.

You will definitely keep an eye on the women's event. Victorija Cmylite will play and she is also a player you have under contract.

That is true. Nowadays there is still too much discussion whether one should play separate tournaments for women and how significant women chess is. I think for a positive development of chess there are still too few women playing. To motivate them and to allow them to develop it is necessary that these players do have a certain amount of success. Therefore such events are very important and that is why we do support them. It is no coincidence that our women's team from the OSC Baden Baden became German team champion again - as did the men.

OB Wolfgang Gerstner & Wolfgang Grenke

There is hardly any reason to complain about the ratio of women playing this year in the Chess Classic. In the main events five of the eight participants are women.

That's true. This also motivates other women players. I think it is very good that Hans-Walter Schmitt emphasizes this aspect so much. I think it is important.

Apart from your commitment to the Chess Classic you have also gradually and carefully turned the OSC Baden Baden into the strongest team in the Bundesliga. The way to the title was long and took a number of years. However, you now seem to have an invincible team. Isn't this domination boring for you? Or to put it differently: Haven't you reached your goal already?

Well, obviously there is still the European Cup as a challenge, and here we haven't achieved anything spectacular yet. But even for our high-class team this title is very difficult to win, because an incredible number of players in Europe are very strong. I was present in Kemer in 2007. 40 players of the world's top 60 took part. This is a special challenge. If you see how close the best European teams are in strength it is obvious that a strong team is not enough to win the title - you also need a little luck.

I assume the European Cup would be a really prestigious trophy - much more so because you see your company as a European company, which is represented by the international players on your team.

This is indeed obvious if you understand how our team is made up. By now our company has representatives in 21 countries. We are always happy to have a strong player in our team who is from a country which had not been represented before. We want to reflect the international structure of our company in our team.

OSC Baden-Baden

The leading player on your team is the World Champion, Vishy Anand, who is also a crucial figure of the Chess Classic - he has won the Rapid World Championship no less than ten times. How significant is Anand for GrenkeLeasing?

When he joined us he was not yet classical World Champion even though he had won the FIDE-KO-World Championship. Last year, when Anand was fighting for the title in Mexico we obviously all kept our fingers crossed and excitedly followed the live transmissions till deep into the night. Of course, Anand's World Champion title has a special significance for the company. However, because the focus of our sponsoring lies in our region, it was important for us that Vishy Anand was available for regional marketing measures of our city Baden Baden. Here, for example, a photo shooting took place, which was republished in Indian magazines. Such things justify our sponsoring. Vishy Anand is an important figure for us.

How is your personal relationship to the World Champion?

Of course, for me Vishy Anand is more than just a player on our team. We feel quite closely related. At the European Team Cup in Kemer we were together on the ship and had time to talk about things going beyond chess.

The Grenke-Foundation which was established in 2004 also contributed to the restructuring of the LA8 cultural center right in the middle of Baden Baden. Work is still fully in progress…

A couple of days ago the topping out ceremony took place. A museum for art and technology of the 19th century will be built on the area, which is rather large. We will have huge halls, from which the games of the OSC Baden Baden can be transmitted live. A very interesting restaurant will also be located in the house. Moreover, the International Club, which already had its residence there and which organizes the famous horse races in Iffezheim will also be there. And of course - and for me this is particularly important - the chess center will have its office there.

Vishy Anand

1870 and 1925 important chess tournaments took place in Baden Baden. Do you feel responsible for continuing this kind of tradition? How important are historical aspects for your own commitment?

I once had an almost coincidental encounter relating to that question. When I started my professional career I played more often in tournaments than I do now. And I once met the chess organizer Reinhold Hoffmann. One evening when we sat together I expressed regret that chess no longer played a role in Baden Baden. Inspired by our conversation the next year Hoffmann organized a big Open in Baden Baden. Eventually this initiative also led to the foundation of the Chess Center which back then was called Karpov Chess Center. Here, I was again more closely connected to the chess scene and intensified the contact to organizers and players. This certainly triggered our commitment to establish such a strong Bundesliga team with the OSC.

In the LA8-Cultural Center a lot of other things apart from chess will happen. How significant is chess compared to the other projects you support such as riding, urban development, supporting young artists or social commitment - to name just a few?

Some things are closer to the mind, others are closer to the heart. Maybe as far as publicity is concerned chess sponsoring does not have the same significance as my commitment for the Festival Hall, the International Club or the chamber of trade and commerce. However, for me chess has a particular significance which is due to my passion for the game.

You declared that you will withdraw from your company in a few years and will only take care of the foundation. It's hard to imagine that your commitment will be even greater.

I like to distinguish between patronage and sponsoring. I see sponsoring as business and patronage as realization and support of ideas. Together with my wife I established the Grenke-Foundation, which took up the task to support junior chess. GrenkeLeasing took care of the commercial part and will possibly continue to do so after I will have left the company. But of course I would like to manage the private aspects of the foundation myself. If the estate continues to grow as it has done up to now there will be funds which will allow to do something in the future.

Your Bundesliga Team brought a lot of the world's top players to Germany. And your sponsoring contributes amongst other things to turning Mainz into the "Mekka" of rapid chess. However, there are hardly any Germans left in the Bundesliga Team of the OSC Baden Baden …

Here I have to disagree resolutely. This year decidedly more Germans played for Baden Baden than in the year before. However, because the top players have lots of tournament commitments your team needs a lot of good players at the top boards to be able to replace players. But this does not mean that we do not want to let the German players play. However, you simply have to accept that currently Arkadij Naiditsch is the only German player who is able to play an Elo of 2650. This is the reality and something you simply cannot ignore.

This was not meant as reproach but to indicate that you are doing a balancing act between popularizing and supporting chess. On the one hand you need the strong players to have success and thus you obviously contribute to make chess better known. On the other hand you support the German talents in your chess center.

Quite true. This is exactly what we want to achieve and it would be nice if the chess public perceived it as such. There is a lack of understanding that we create a basis on which in the time to come top players will be able to mature. It is not possible to create world class from nowhere. To reach this goal we need very good international players which are active in Germany, and who can function as orientation for others.

This year, Germany will be more than ever in the focus of the chess world. First, there will be the World Championship between Anand and Kramnik in Bonn. Immediately after that the nations of the world will meet in Dresden for the Chess Olympiad. What repercussions on German chess do you expect from these two gigantic chess events?

These events will definitely advertise chess. However, I doubt whether this will have great effects on professional chess in Germany. I believe the strength of the German players depends much more on sustainability than on individual events. However, comprehensive media coverage might bring other companies to sponsor chess. With our commitment we from GrenkeLeasing can only contribute something to the chess life. A positive development will only succeed in connection with a lot of supporters. However, here the same is true: Sustainability is not achieved through individual events but through continuous work.

Thank you very much for the interview.

Harry Schaack

Harry Schaak

Published by Thilo Gubler

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