Chess and yellow wine in Besançon

4/7/2003 – The French Championship "National 1" is one the most attractive in the world. 'From April 3 to 6 the eight top teams of the country battled it out in Besançon, a lovely Roman city situated near Switzerland. Jean-Michel Péchiné of the French chess magazine Europe Echecs has sent us this link-filled illustrated report.

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Time to play in Besançon

All these teams were enlisted in the Group B, which is the Eastern one. In the same time, the eight Top Teams of Group A were struggling in Bordeaux, where the so expected explosive shock between the terrific Armada of the Nao-Chess Club, leaded by Vlad Kramnik, against the Super Team of Clichy, appeared on Saturday (3-1).


Welcome in the most "Green City" of France!

Besançon is the capitale of the wonderful region of Franche-Comté. Historically, this old Roman city is one of the most reputed "citadels" of Chess. It was there that the absolute record of 1000 players enlisted in the individual French Championships was first beaten in 1999.


Thomas Luther with the last issue of Europe Echecs

The well known magazine Europe Echecs was also created there, by Raoul Bertolo in 1959. And it is still edited in Besançon. Even the French Federation was located in this lovely small town (120,000 residents).


IGM Robert Fontaine in Besançon, "vers un Monde Plus Humain"

Otherwise, it is the birthplace of Victor Hugo (1802) and the famous brothers Auguste (1862) et Louis (1864) Lumière, who invented the Cinema and who were both distinguished chess players. This prolific land of Franche-Comté is also the historical place where the ideal of Socialism was born, under "the auspices" of an incredible line of philosophers such as Joseph Proudhon, Charles Fourier, Victor Considérant, Charles Nodier, all born there.


The majestic Salines Royales of Arc-et-Senans

In a perimeter of 50 kilometers around Besançon, you can visit for pleasure either the attractive Museum dedicated to the famous painter Gustave Courbet, located in his native city of Ornans, which is surnamed "the small Venise", and the fantastic "Salines Royales" of Arc-et-Senans, the utopian city erected from nothing in a lonesome ever green country by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, during the 18th century, which is a masterpiece of the "Patrimony of Humanity", protected by UNESCO.


Vlad Kramnik during an unforgettable tasting of the famous wines of Arbois

However, one the most attractive place is Arbois, the wine growing city of the illustrious Louis Pasteur and Henry Maire, where one of the most extraordinary white wines is "educated". In March 2001, Vlad Kramnik himself tasted this delicious "Vin Jaune" (yellow wine), delivered world wide after ripening for six years in wooden barrels. It is very expensive, but it is unique and so good – only after the games!

Miss Nadège Robert, from Maty, offered a lovely clock to the eight captains and to the Arbiter to celebrate their venue in Besançon. It is notable that Besançon is the historical French capital of watch making, where the LIP's factory – viewed as an emblem in the beginning of the 70's – is located and from where MATY is operating world wide, selling watches and jewels to millions of consumers by Post. Managing the Time and controlling his nerves, while playing with an absolute precision were – precisely – the main qualities requested during these 4 days of high level competition.


J.-P. Basaille and J.-C. Corsini, the two arbiters

The formula of the National 1 is the same as the one in use in French Rugby League "Top 16". The main and only real difference is that nobody is allowed to knock down his opponent with his hands, but only with his brains. The official arbiter is Jean-Philippe Basaille, from the French Federation.


The German championship!?

All these teams are headed by well known GMs, like Besançon's one "Tour Prends Garde", whose first board player is Thomas Luther, sitting across on Saturday to Christopher Lutz, playing for Vandoeuvre!


Vlad Tkatchiev playing at the first board for Cannes-Echecs

After the defeat of Clichy, the team of Cannes, leaded by Vlad Tkatchiev, is at the present time the last rival of Nao-Chess Club on the road of the French title. After this second stage of qualifications, the 8 best teams (4 of the 2 groups) will fight for the Title at the beginning of May (Poule Haute), while the 8 "worst" teams will try to save their place in N1 (Poule Basse, 4 losing it).

On Friday night, some of the players such as Olivier Touzane and Jean-Luc Chabanon were invited by the Art director Jean Pétrement and his company of Theatre "Bacchus", to discuss about Chess and Art, just after the company performed the masterpiece "Endgame", written by Samuel Beckett.

Here is the list of the most valuable players who challenged in Victor Hugo's city during these four days: Besançon (T. Luther, N. Nikcevic), Bischwiller (J. Pinter, P. Schlosser), Cannes (V. Tkatchiev, M. Kazhgaleïev, J. Gallagher, M. Godena, R. Fontaine, D. Anic, J.-L. Chabanon), Montpellier (A. Shchekachev, H. Hamdouchi, G. Flear, M. Santo-Roman, E. Prié), Mulhouse (Y. Pelletier, V. Milov, A. Sokholov), Nice (A. Vaïsser, A. Delchev, H. Banikas), Vandoeuvre (C. Lutz, L. Mc Shane, I. Glek).

Results and games in PGN on Europe Echecs.

Jean-Michel Péchiné


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