Harikrishna wins category 13 in Nancy, France

2/28/2009 – 200 players in 19 different tournaments took part in the 7th International Chess Festival in Nancy from 16 to 22 of February 2009. This town is located in the east of France, between Paris and Strasbourg. The tournament system is unusual: the players are divided into groups of ten and play round robins. You will get to know a lot of new players in this giant pictorial report by IM Christophe Philippe.

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Harikrishna wins category 13 in Nancy, France

Report by IM Christophe Philippe
(creator and organiser of Nancy chess festival)

The town of Nancy has a nice chess tradition with two clubs of this area playing in the French first league since about 20 years (Nancy on the 90’s and now Vandoeuvre), quite a strong chess open in Vandoeuvre at Christmas, and of course this seven year old chess festival. The “Conseil Général” is the official building of this geographic department “Meurthe et Moselle”. To quickly explain the official hierarchy of our old country: at the top is the state, then 26 regions (the town Nancy is in the region “Lorraine”), then 100 departments, then about 37,000 towns. As tourist knows very well, France has a tradition of lots of small and typical villages…

Since the beginning, instead of a normal open, the unusual system of round-robin closed tournaments with ten players each was chosen. The A-group is a GM tournament, the B-group an IM tournament, the C-group for players rated over 2200 Elo, the D-group for players rated over 2100 Elo … etc. The strong point of the tournament and probably the reason of his increasing success is that in Nancy the lowest amateur player is playing with same conditions as the strongest GM: same building, same schedule and number of rounds (9), same nice very good playing conditions with space, wood chess set, electronic clock, etc.

2009 was a special edition for two main reasons: first the record of entries was soundly broken with 174 players instead of 140 last year. The organisers can even count 200 players in total with the 26 kids playing a rapid on one day. Then the A-group reached another record in Nancy: a category 13, average 2556 Elo, i.e. the strongest closed tournament in France since several years. With the Indian Harikrishna, Russian Tregubov, Polish Krasenkow, German Meier against a nice French squad with Bauer and young hopes Feller and Edouard for example. So no less than five players over 2600 Elo! Harikrishna dominated the group quite easily as confirmed by the final result table:

Nikolai Ninov won the B-group quite easily with 7,5/9:

As a conclusion, I have to thank all our partners, especially the French Chess Federation, who has rewarded the Nancy Festival with the “Label FFE”, an award given until now only to about ten chess tournaments in France. And it must also be said that without their financial support, probably a so strong A-group could not have been organised. All the rest can be said with photos …

Picture gallery


The nicest part of Nancy is the famous “Place Stanislas”, built between 1751 and 1755


The "Place" (pronounced "plus") is surrounded by several big doors with gold sculptures


Duke Stanislas Leszczynski, who still stands on his Place, in front of the town hall


The Place is used sometimes for special attractions like garden exhibitions


In more recent times, Nancy has become famous for its basket-ball team, the best in France in the last years, four times first league finalist in a row, three times losers and at last champion in 2008!


The tournament takes place in the castle of “Conseil Général”, a little bit outside the center of the town. It’s the administrative building of this geographic department.


Since last year, the chess festival begins with a simul

The simul takes place in the commercial center “FNAC”, one of the sponsors, selling cultural products like books, DVDs, CDs, computers... The five chess clubs of Nancy present three players each, and in this way making also a kind of competition between them: Which club will put up the greatest resistance to the GM?


Sebastien Feller is a young French hopeful, 17 years old and already GM with 2525 Elo

The young GM is training with GM Iossif Dorfman, the former coach of Garry Kasparov and Etienne Bacrot (for example). In this “not so easy-simul” against mainly club players, Sebastian won 15 games and conceded only two draws. More photos of the simul can be found here.


The main tournament takes place during one week in two big rooms of Conseil Général. The main room contains the now famous circle which includes group A and B with mainly IM and GM players.


Since the beginning of the chess festival, one of the goal was to provide the same very good playing conditions to amateurs and GMs. Individual table, nice wood chess set, electronic clock…


The strong A-group plays in the circle, Groups E to J on the outside


The 2009 top seeds were Indian GM Harikrishna and Russian Tregubov. Their game was a fighting draw in 40 moves in round eight.


Number 3 seed was the polish GM Krasenkow (here against French IM Gozzoli), now 2620 Elo, but who was member of world top ten with 2702 Elo in the year 2000


Number four was the local player GM Christian Bauer, number five in France. He is originally from the Nancy region, but is now living “under the sun” in Montpellier!


The first shock of the tournament was IM Mustapha Nezar beating GM Pavel Tregubov, already in first round! It is the best performance ever of the local player.


Harikrishna took definitive lead of the tournament by beating Krasenkow in round seven


Two of the three best young French players under 20 : Sebastien Feller and Romain Edouard

The other young talent is already a super-GM: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The two above met in round seven, and GM Sebastien Feller beat new-GM Romain Edouard in a very tactical game, and finished in a very good third place with 5.5/9.


Rapidly improving German GM Georg Meier maybe does not have the most exciting playing style, but it is very clean and effective. His solid play made him scored 6/9 and a nice performance of 2671 offered him second place alone.


After their own games, amateurs players had just a few meters to walk to watch the grandmasters fights


Two very long games were quite interesting in the last round: Tregubov-Edouard (1-0) and Brunner-Harikrishna (0-1)


Instead of winning easily the tournament with a quick last-round draw, Harikrishna worked for five more hours to beat local IM Brunner. Later he said “You know, it's five Elo points!”


GM Christian Bauer vs IM Mustapha Nezar

These two players are both about 32 years old, and have been playing against each other since more than 20 years! At this time they were both young talents in this part of France and competing in youth competitions. Of course Christian Bauer became a well-known strong GM, rated over 2600. On his side, Mustapha Nezar chose not to be a professional (he is working as a lawyer) but still became a respected IM.


Bulgarian IM Nikolai Ninov (right) totally dominated group B, winning with 7.5/9, one full point ahead of Russian Gladyszev and French Marzolo. He seemed very happy to qualify for strong group A of next year where he will have opportunity to fight for GM-norm.


David vs Goliat: 14-year-old FM Lagarde (another French hope) against IM Marzolo. Guess who won!


In Group B, FM Cedric Paci almost made an IM-norm, but only drew last round againt Gladyszev when a win was necessary. Still a very good tournament for the local player.


Belgium FM Luc Henris finished second in Group C, and so qualified, together with the winner François Brethes, for group B of next year.


Laurie Delorme, fourth of the last individual women French championship, and one of the few female player of the first groups in Nancy, here playing against Arnaud Cordier, winner of group D.


French IM Etienne Mensch didn't just play in the tournament, but was at the same time working on the Internet coverage and videos. He is also a master in computers!


Nadir Bounzou, generally regarded as one of the best arbiter in France. Nobodynever made him lose his calm and control … not even the worst Parisian chess players!


Paci, Gladyszev, Ninov, Marzolo, Wiley, the five best players of group B


Edouard, Harikrishna, Feller and Meier – the top players in Group A average about 20 years

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