90th French Championship starts in style

by Albert Silver
8/13/2015 – The French Championship is now in its 90th edition, and much like the very appropriate saying 'like good wine, it only gets better with age', the massive event brings together no fewer than eight competitions with 597 players. In spite of the excellent lineups, it is not the numbers that warrant that description, but the lengths to which the organizers went to set a standard.

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The competition this year is being held in the French city Saint Quentin, a lovely commune in the north of France, with a modest population of 55 thousand.

A postcard image of summertime in Saint Quentin

The French championship spans a massive eight standard control competitions (there will still be the blitz to follow), from the absolute French championships, both open and women, where the champions of France will be declared, to the myriad ladder events to reach the top.

The official poster

Just under the main events is the Ascension competition, where players can fight for the top qualifying spots for next year's top competition. Then there is the Veterans championship with notable players of France's past such as noted author and columnist IM Nicolas Giffard.

One of France's earliest International Masters, IM Nicolas Giffard authored the beautiful book,
"La Fabuleuse Histoire des Champions d'Echecs" (The fabulous history of the chess champions)
a large hardcover with literally hundreds of wonderful photos, many in color. A collector's item.

Finally, there are four opens by rating, Opens A, B, C, and D, with A being reserved for players not over 2199 Elo, and the D event for players 1499 or less. All in all, there are plenty of competitions for players not necessarily wishing to serve as cannon fodder for masters or GMs if such is the case.

The reception area with individual people for each event

With nearly 600 players nothing less would fit them all

Let the games begin!

Upon perusing the main website of the competition and its contents, it quickly becomes clear that the organizers truly went far beyond the call of duty here. Naturally there are the many live games (38 boards total, and from ALL the events), as well as the daily summaries as one expects, and should even be considered the bare minimum. The high quality photos that are updated daily are also most welcome, both for players wishing to share their moments via social networks, or for the media for its coverage, yet it does not stop here.

The city is covered with banners and billboards

Inside there is a small display on the history of the game

There is also live video coverage with not only several cameras spread throughout the playing hall, but also live commentary showing the many boards and games.

There is even a superb daily bulletin that is distributed on place and online in PDF, that it must be said is one of the highest quality daily bulletins seen. Not only is it replete with reports and material, but comes with a daily game commented by GM Prié, and even a daily Beauty Prize, sponsored by Europe Echecs, for the best combination. The winner receives a six month subscription plus a t-shirt, a book, and more.

This is a sample page from the bulletin. Not only is the content first class, but the presentation
is professional quality through and through. Spectacular.


Finally, as if that weren't enough, there are daily commented games in video. In French understandably.

Making this all possible was of course the partnerships whose generous sponsorship was
visibly put to good use.

It goes without saying that the top competitions are the ones with the largest draw, and at the very top of the pecking order is Etienne Bacrot (2694), followed by Gharamian (2644) and Edouard (2634). The average rating of the twelve participants is a very respectable 2588. After four rounds, the early leaders are Christian Bauer and Jean-Marc Degraeve with 3.0/4.

The drawing of the lots with Etienne Bacrot drawing his

Diego Salazar, president of the French Chess Federation at the opening ceremony

Jean-Marc Degraeve had a great start with 3.0/4

He is joined by Christian Bauer with the same score, who beat second-seed Gharamian in round two

[Event "90th ch-FRA 2015"] [Site "Saint-Quentin FRA"] [Date "2015.08.10"] [Round "2"] [White "Bauer, Ch"] [Black "Gharamian, T."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B92"] [WhiteElo "2618"] [BlackElo "2644"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r4r1k/3b1pp1/pp6/2n3p1/P2N4/8/1PP1B1PP/3R1RK1 w - - 0 25"] [PlyCount "25"] [EventDate "2015.08.09"] {Although the material is equal, White has a significant advantage thanks to the more active pieces and above all the pawn majority on the queenside.} 25. a5 $1 Na4 ({The idea behind it is} 25... bxa5 $2 26. Nb3 $1 {and if} Nxb3 27. Rxd7 $1 {spells trouble for Black. Not only must he spend time evacuating his knight with} Nc5 {but the f-pawn is clearly a sitting duck.} 28. Rc7 Ne6 29. Rcxf7 Rxf7 30. Rxf7 {and White is probably winning here.}) 26. Nf3 Bf5 27. Nxg5 Bxc2 28. Rc1 Bg6 29. b3 Nc5 30. axb6 $1 {Black's rooks have been unable to leave their posts, and now White has a passed pawn on b6. White is winning.} Nxb3 31. Rc7 a5 32. b7 Rab8 33. Bc4 a4 34. Nxf7+ Bxf7 35. Rfxf7 Rxf7 36. Bxf7 Kh7 37. Rc3 1-0

Leading the women's competition is IM Almira Skripchenko with 3.5/4

A delighted fan displays his near complete collection of autographs from this year's event

Open standings after four rounds

Women's standings after four rounds

Photos by FFE


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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