A chess feast in Château de Villandry

10/28/2007 – The location was magical: a Renaissance châteaux on the banks of the Loire, with decorative and herbal gardens that must be seen to be believed. A pianist gives a recital of music by Danican Philidor, and four great chess masters (Korchnoi, Fressinet, Kosteniuk and Skripchenko) play a chess tournament. One of the games is the longest rapid chess game in history. Report with pictures and videos.

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Château de Villandry is the last of the great Renaissance châteaux to be built on the banks of the Loire, and its architecture combines with gardens laid out on three levels, its best-known feature, in a happy marriage of beauty, diversity, and harmony.


The Renaissance Château of Villandry


And aerial view of the Château and its gardens


The decorative gardens are among the most beautiful in Europe


The Garden of Love: colorful geometric designs, meticulously maintained


In the background the decorative kitchen and herbal gardens


A profusion of colourful flowers and vegetables, medicinal and culinary

The vegetable garden was created in the Middle Ages. The monks in their Abbeys took great pleasure in growing their vegetables in geometrical patterns. They also planted standard roses to decorate their gardens. According to a long-standing tradition, the roses here are planted symmetrically, representing the monk working his vegetable patch.


Cabbage and pumkins, in front of the Château

Villandry has been in the possession of the Carvallo family since 1906. It was Joachim Carvallo, a Spaniard, and his American wife, Ann Coleman, who created the gardens around 1910. The gardens are open daily from 9.00 a.m. all year round. The castle is open from 9.00 a.m. on 10 February to 11 November 2007 and during the Christmas holidays.


Inside the Château, which was refurbished in the 18th century, and was recently restored


Château de Villandry has today become a friendly, family home, where every room tells the story of an era, thanks to its furniture and careful decoration


Chess and Music in Château de Villandry

The chess event in Château de Villandry last week involved four players taking part in a series of rapid games. The participants were GM Viktor Kortchnoi, GM Laurent Fressinet, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk and WGM Almira Skripchenko. The festival included classical music composed by François-André Danican Philidor, who as we know was a great chess player, but also an accomplished composer. The musical part was performed by pianist Natasha Kudritskaya.


Natasha Kudritskaya, who played Philidor pieces on the piano

Two semifinals were played. In the encounter Alexandra Kosteniuk vs Almira Skripchenko the Russian grandmaster (Kosteniuk) won the first game and drew the second to take the match 1.5:0.5.


Alexandra Kosteniuk and Almira Skripchenko in the gardens of Villandry

In the second match Viktor Korchnoi faced French GM Laurent Fressinet. The latter won the first game, Viktor The Terrible struck back in the second. In the tiebreak blitz the first game, which has not been completely recorded, ended when Korchnoi claimed three-fold repetition in a rook ending. The rules appeared to be unclear for blitz chess, and the arbiter took quite a while to take a decision – in favour of Korchnoi. But Fressinet went on to win the final game, so that no great controversy occurred.


Viktor Korchnoi claims a draw in the first tiebreak blitz game

You can watch the drama of the first tiebreak unfold in the following video by Europe Echecs, with some really incredible time trouble scenes showing 76-year-old Viktor Korchnoi battling the clock.

There are a lot more videos to watch on this page of Europe Echecs

In the final it was Laurent Fressinet vs Alexandra Kosteniuk, and a tough battle it was. Fressinet won the first game with the black pieces, in 72 moves. In the second Kosteniuk had a piece for a pawn on move 54, but it took her 183 more moves (one hundred and eighty three) to nurse the advantage to victory. This is possibly the longest rapid chess game ever played, lasting for over two hour and a total of 237 moves!


The longest rapid chess game in history? It lasted two hours and 237 moves

Incidentally the last 116 moves of the game were with rook and bishop vs rook, so in a normal situation Fressinet could have claimed a draw by the 50-move rule. But after the events in the game with Korchnoi he decided not to claim and resigned after 237 moves. He won both tiebreak blitz games (three minutes plus two seconds increment), in 25 and 30 moves. So he took first place in this rapid chess spectacle.

Video Impressions of Château de Villandry

The following video has been provided by Chessmovies.com, and gives some very nice impressions of Château de Villandry and the chess event. It contains the Korchnoi three-fold repetition scene, as well as the 237-move game Fressinet-Kosteniuk. The film also contains a lot of beautiful music by Philidor, played by Natasha Kudritskaya, and the running commentary is by Alexandra Kosteniuk herself.

You can watch it in Flash, if the player above MPEG 4 version does not work on your system


Links

Villandry is just three hours from Paris by car. Take the A 10 exit No. 24 (Joué-lès-Tours) then the A85 towards Saumur, exit No. 8 (Villandry). By train from Paris-Montparnasse (55 minutes) then take a taxi at Tours or Saint-Pierre-des-Corps station (20 minutes).

Contact:

Château de Villandry, 37 510 Villandry, France.
Tel: 33 (0)2 47 50 02 09 – Fax: 33 (0)2 47 50 12 85.
Email: villandry@wanadoo.fr.
Website: www.chateauvillandry.com
Virtual tour of Château de Villandry


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