French Team Ch: Clichy and Bischwiller victorious

by Albert Silver
6/4/2014 – It was a fitting conclusion to a great event held in Saint Quentin, France. In the penultimate round, not only was Clichy guaranteed the title, and Bischwiller the silver, but the two tail-enders condemned to play next year in the lower division and fight for their spot in the sun. Despite knowing the results, all the teams played the games in the final round to the bitter end.

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The French Chess Leagues are underway, and much like many top leagues such as the Bundesliga, the Russian Team championships, or the Chinese Chess League to name but a few, a wide assortment of top players can be found. Where it distinguishes itself from the others is that contrary to its colleagues that spread the competition out over a period of four to twelve months, the French 'Top 12' will play out all eleven rounds from May 24 to June 3 on successive days.

Eleven teams are playing eleven rounds, and will compete every day except on the day they have a Bye. Theoretically there would be twelve teams, hence the title 'Top 12', but Marseille declared forfeit and thus only eleven teams will play. The club Tours de Haute-Picardie in Saint-Quentin, France, recently promoted to the division, is hosting the competition in the Palais de Fervaques, one of the most beautiful buildings in the region.

Rounds nine to eleven

In round nine, Clichy showed they had learned their lesson from the unexpected draw against Evry in the previous round, and the players were focused and motivated. French champion Hamdouchi opened his team's score with a win, followed by heavy hitters Jakovenko and Van Wely. Bois-Colombes went down 4-1 and Clichy came within a single win to secure the title.

Dmitry Jakovenko has done his club proud and then some, scoring 3.5/4 in the final rounds

The real question on everyone's mind is who would take silver? Bischwiller had a bye, so Mulhouse, their only rival, needed a win to close the small gap. Unfortunately for them, they fought a hard battle against Metz, and it all came down to Gajewski-Iordachescu in which the Romanian grandmaster clinched the win for Metz, and put an end to their dreams of vice-champions.

Romanian grandmaster Viorel Iodachescu indirectly helped secure the silver for Bischwiller

Round ten closed the deal as the Clichois (pronounced klee-shwah) finished their campaign with a 5-0 victory over Metz. Since each team plays ten matches in eleven rounds, and they have a bye in the last, they could effectively rest and enjoy their win during the last day.

Bischwiller also assured their vice-championship by beating Montpellier 3-0, but it was not all roses that day. Saint-Quentin, the gracious hosts of the event, were in a must-win situation, but suffered a tough loss to Strasbourg, which means they will be dropping into the lower division, Nationale 1, next year. Rueil-Malmaison was in a similar situation and though they drew their match against Châlons, it was not enough.

You would be forgiven for expecting the final day of competition to be half-hearted considering the winners and losers had laready been determined in the penultimate round, but the players had come to play, regardless of win or lose, and every match was fought to the bitter end. The longest and hardest match was undoubtedly that between Bischwiller, the new vice-champions, and Châlons, the previous ones. Nino Maisuradze, playing for Bischwiller, won her eighth game of the event, finishing with a championship high of 8.5/10, while Ivan Salgado equalized by beating Andrei Volokitin.

Nino Maisuradze was the highest scorer in the Top 12 competition with 8.5/10

Spaniard Ivan Salgado Lopez concluded the competition fittingly with a French Defense

[Event "TCh-FRA Top 12 2014"] [Site "Saint-Quentin FRA"] [Date "2014.06.03"] [Round "11.1"] [White "Volokitin, Andrei"] [Black "Salgado Lopez, Ivan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C02"] [WhiteElo "2638"] [BlackElo "2627"] [PlyCount "60"] [EventDate "2014.05.24"] [WhiteTeam "Bischwiller"] [BlackTeam "L'Echiquier Chalonnais"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6 6. Na3 {This is a very strange move in an otherwise perfectly standard French Advance.} cxd4 {By far the most logical way to answer. The point is that after the exchange of the c-pawns, the knight would be far better placed on c3 than a3, or c2 as will take place.} 7. cxd4 Nh6 8. Nc2 {The move is consistent, but we can now see the problem with Na3. The knight may be useful on c2, but it is also quite passive since its role is essentially a defensive one that does nothing to fight for the initiative.} Nf5 9. Bd3 Bd7 10. O-O a5 11. Kh1 Rc8 (11... Nfxd4 $2 {is not possible and loses material.} 12. Ncxd4 Nxd4 13. Be3 {The point of Kh1 is revealed. Without it, Black could now get off the hook with Nxf3 check, but there is no check here to unpin the knight.} Bc5 14. Rc1 Bc6 (14... Rc8) 15. Rxc5 Qxc5 16. Nxd4 {and White is up a piece.}) 12. a4 Be7 13. Bd2 {White is goading Black into taking on d4.} O-O {Salgado is not interested though and instead underestimates the danger of the alternative.} ({Now} 13... Nfxd4 {is playable, but it leads to a double-edged position Black did not want to venture into.} 14. Be3 Bc5 15. Nfxd4 Nxd4 16. Nxd4 Bxd4 17. Qg4 $1 {and White recovers the pawn while stranding the Black king in the center.} Bxe3 18. Qxg7 Rf8 19. fxe3 Qxe3 20. Bxh7 {with a very unclear position.}) 14. g4 $1 {White now has a strong attack} Nh6 15. Bxh6 $2 {A mistake. White had no reason to hurry to play this, even if he wanted to give up a valuable attacking piece to fracture Black's king position. The knight has nowhere to go at the moment.} ( 15. Rg1 $1 {was stronger. It protects the g4 pawn and prepares all manner of hardship for Black.} Qb3 {Now} 16. Bxh6 {is stronger since the rook is already positioned on the g-file to followup with immediate action.} gxh6 17. g5 {and things are looking bad for Black.}) 15... gxh6 16. Qd2 Kg7 17. g5 h5 18. Qe2 Nb4 19. Nxb4 Qxb4 {Since Black is grasping at straws, lacking any concrete way to generate counterplay, he depends very much on White cooperating with him. Black is threatening to take on a4, but the real game is on the kingside. He has more than one promising way to pursue the attack.} 20. b3 $2 {This was not it though! Granted the pawn cannot be taken due to Qxb3 Rb1, but it allows Black to penetrate on the c-file, a dream come true.} ({Instead, one way to continue the attack might be} 20. Ne1 $1 {with the straightforward idea of taking on h5 and shoving f5 down Black's throat. A sample continuation might continue} Qxd4 21. f4 Rh8 {At some point this will be necessary since Qxh7 hitting on h7 cannot be stopped.} 22. Nc2 Qxb2 23. f5 {and White's attack is very unpleasant.}) ({The alternate plan of attack might involve} 20. Rg1 $1 { Obviously White is not really threatening g6. His plan is the rook lift with Rg3-h3 and pile the pieces on the h-file. The other rook can join and add threats via the g-file as it is.} Rh8 {Not only does this protect against any immediate attacks on h7, but it also opens the way for the king to escape via f8.} 21. Rg3 {and once more the initiative is clearly in White's hands.}) 20... Rc3 $1 {Now the entire dynamic has changed, and it is Black who is better since White still needs too much time for his attack to gather steam.} 21. Rfc1 Rfc8 22. Rxc3 Rxc3 23. Bc2 b5 $1 {preparing the way for the light squared bishop.} 24. axb5 Qxb5 25. Qd1 a4 26. bxa4 $4 {White's position was already coming apart at the seams, but this blunder ends it.} Qc4 27. Nd2 (27. Bb1 Rc1) (27. Rc1 Bxa4 28. Bxa4 (28. Ne1 Qf1#) 28... Rxc1) 27... Qxd4 28. Bxh7 Rh3 29. Bc2 Qxf2 30. Nf1 Bc5 0-1

However, it wasn't until the final game of the final match that their score was tob be known, and Jean-Pierre Le Roux's victory over Marie Sebag settled the affair for Bischwiller, giving them their ninth win, with their loss to Clichy being their only blemish.

The organizers and hosts, representing Saint Quentin, can be proud of the superb event

The deserving champions, Clichy, hoist the trophy after a near flawless campaign

Although Saint Quentin may be disappointed by the final result of their team, they can take solace in that they presented a memorable visit to their home with the quality of their hospitality.

Pictures by D. Dervieux

Final standings

Rk
Team
Pts
M
diff
Gms+
Gms-
1
Clichy
29
10
33
41
8
2
Bischwiller
28
10
13
28
15
3
Mulhouse Philidor
24
10
16
27
11
4
Bois Colombes
20
10
1
25
24
5
Metz Fischer
19
10
-10
18
28
6
Evry Grand Roque
19
10
3
24
21
7
Montpellier
18
10
-7
19
26
8
Strasbourg
18
10
-8
19
27
9
Chalons en Champagne
17
10
-4
17
21
10
Rueil Malmaison
15
10
-19
16
35
11
Tours de Haute Picardie
13
10
-18
13
31

Links

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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.
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Daniel Roos Daniel Roos 6/4/2014 04:35
The final comment about the ''expenses'' and about the ''more compact schedule'' is quite funny. A survey of the clubs has shown that the big majority of the clubs does not agree with this ''professionnal'' schedule. In fact, the amateurs can not play any more (no holidays for such a long period) and the championship is more and more expensive for the clubs because they have to hire professionnal players instead of playing with their own troops.
Also, somehow the championship has been stolen because the clubs cannot organize this event anymore in their own cities or regions. And the amateur clubs have to pay all expenses while the federation is selling the event to a single organizing city. It's a complete nonsense. IM Daniel Roos (President and team captain of the CE-Strasbourg)
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