Bischwiller claim hat-trick of French club championship titles

by Dhananjay Khadilkar
7/5/2021 – Bischwiller claimed their third consecutive French club championship title by winning the 2021 edition of ‘Top 12’ in Chalons en Champagne. Led by French Grandmaster Etienne Bacrot, the club scored an impressive 10 wins and a draw in the 11-round event to claim 32 points, three ahead of the runners-up Asnieres. | Pictured: Marie Sebag (left) of Bischwiller defeated Pauline Guichard of Asnieres in their round-5 match

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The toughest and most satisfying victory

Bischwiller claimed their third consecutive — and fourth overall — French club championship title by winning the 2021 edition of ‘Top 12’ in Chalons en Champagne. Led by French Grandmaster Etienne Bacrot, the club scored an impressive 10 wins and a draw in the 11-round event to claim 32 points, three ahead of the runners-up Asnieres – Le Grand Echiquier.

The defending champions had stamped their authority early by winning the first seven rounds of the tournament which is an annual affair featuring France’s twelve best clubs.  After being held to a draw in round eight by Clichy Echecs 92, which finished third in the final standings, Bischwiller resumed their winning string right until the end of the tournament. Grandmasters Markus Ragger (8½ points in 11 rounds), Arkadij Naiditsch (8 points in 10 rounds) and Bilel Bellahcene (7 points in 8 rounds) were their top performers.

Loek van Wely, Eloi Relange

Loek Van Wely and Eloi Relange of Clichy Echecs 92, which finished third in this year's Top 12

Unarguably, the critical win for Bischwiller was in round five, where they defeated the other title favourites Asnieres 3-1. Interestingly, this was one of the only two rounds in the tournament that Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, representing Asnieres, played. Against Bischwiller, MVL defeated Laurent Fressinet while drawing against Nils Grandelius of Chalons en Champagne.

Going into the final round, Bischwiller had already built an unassailable lead. However,  the runners-up spot was still up for grabs as Clichy trailed Asnieres by just one point. However, with all the eight games in their match ending in draws, Asnieres held on to second place by a one-point margin. Chalons en Champagne and C’Chartres Echecs completed the top five finishes.

Bischwiller president Roland Reeb termed this year’s win as the toughest and therefore the most satisfying of the four titles. “This year the top teams were much stronger. Moreover, it wasn’t easy to win against some of the teams, like Grasse Echecs, that weren’t at the top,” he said. According to Reeb, the win against Asnieres was the most important, as “going by the average Elo ratings, Asnieres was the best team.”

Reeb said that thorough preparation, high level of professionalism and good team spirit contributed to the team’s success. “It has been the same team for the past three years,” he added.

Bischwiller, Top 12

The winning squad (click to enlarge)


Final standings

The scoring system used at the Top 12 Championship grants 3 points for a win, 2 points for a draw and 1 point for a loss.

Pl. Clubs Pts J D P C
1 Bischwiller 32 11 36 44 8
2 Asnieres - le Grand Echiquier 29 11 34 42 8
3 Clichy Echecs 92 28 11 25 40 15
4 Chalons-En-Champagne 26 11 22 38 16
5 C'Chartres Echecs 26 11 19 37 18
6 Mulhouse Philidor 23 11 12 31 19
7 Vandoeuvre Echecs 21 11 1 28 27
8 Grasse Echecs 21 11 4 29 25
9 Villejuif 18 11 -32 19 51
10 Agen 15 11 -31 15 46
11 Echiquier de l'Erdre 13 11 -54 10 64
12 Club 608 - Paris 12 11 -36 16 52

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Dhananjay is a Paris based journalist and a chess enthusiast. While he enjoys playing the game, he is more fascinated by the drama and history associated with it.

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rokko rokko 7/6/2021 10:48
Certainly one of the biggest OTB events this year.
Thanks for reporting.
MauvaisFou MauvaisFou 7/6/2021 06:27
Bravo Roland ! Et Philidor Mulhouse, 6ème, montre la force des Echecs alsaciens.
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