How about: Montpellier and Saint-Affrique 2008?

8/22/2007 – There are few places on earth that are more charming than the southern part of France, with its rivers, mountains, bridges, pétanque, couscous, cheese and wine. And chess. You can take part in the Open in Montpellier and, a few days later, join an international tournament with hundreds of players in Saint-Affrique. Meri Grigoryan tells us all about it in a big pictorial report.

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15th Saint-Affrique International Open, France

By Meri Grigoryan

Saint Affrique is a town of rivers, mountains, bridges, pétanque, chess, cheese and wine. It is situated in south of Aveyron area, where Roquefort cheese is made, in the Midi-Pyrénées region. Saint Affrique grew up in the 6th Century around the tomb of the bishop St. Africain and in the 12th Century a fortress was built on the neighbouring rock of Caylus.

The town has five bridges over the river Sorgues, which cuts through seven hills: des Anglais, de la Quille, de la Fous, de la Serre, des Cazes, de Nougayrolle et du Rocher de Caylus. The land area is 110 km² and there are 8300 inhabitants. It’s the birthplace of the musician and inventor Pierre-Augustine Sarrus (1813-1876) and the mathematician and politician Émile Borel (1871-1956).


Le Pont Vieux (the Old Bridge) was built in 1270 and is classified as a Historical Monument


“A Room With A View”: this is what I see from my window


A metallic creation of Gavroche, a fictional character from the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.


Place de la Liberté, with another metallic creation

When I was told that there is an international tournament in Saint Affrique every summer I was surprised. I had never heard about it before. And as I like to write about things people have never written about I decided to visit the town for a holiday, explore the Aveyron area and practice my French – with no intention of playing chess!

I travelled via Montpellier and before getting to my final destination I had time to enjoy the city’s impressive Antigone district architecture created by the Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill (born December 5, 1939).


Antigone district: cross to the arcade and shopping centre Polygone and all your money will soon be gone...


Antigone district: a scene overlooking the Polygone arcade


Antigone district: Insulae


Place de la Comédie: Opera House

Finally I arrived in Saint Affrique! The general welcoming atmosphere made me feel like home and I decided to play but with one condition: if I felt tired I would not continue the tournament. My request was granted, and so I played four games. After all, this trip was meant to be my holiday...

The tournament was run smoothly and many activities were organised. 201 players, even from India, took part in the 15th St. Affrique International. The winner was Moroccan GM Hichem Hamdouchi and the lady’s prize went to Indian WGM Nisha Mohota. I scored 2.5/4, lost my second game against Glenn C. Flear.

Final standings

#

Name

Country

Title

Elo

Points

1

Hamdouchi, Hichem

MAR

GM

2576

8

2

Degraeve, Jean-Marc

FRA

GM

2520

7.5

3

Flear, Glenn C.

ENG

GM

2479

7.5

4

Boudre, Jean-Pierre

FRA

IM

2329

7

5

Dselrme, Axel

FRA

FM

2317

7

6

Mohota, Nisha

IND

WGM

2332

7

7

LeJarre, Ludovic

FRA

FM

2359

6.5

8

David, Vincent

FRA

FM

2390

6.5

9

Petrossian, Armen

FRA

2392

6.5

10

Prie, Eric

FRA

GM

2518

6.5

11

Hamdouchi, Adina-Maria

ROM

WGM

2287

6.5

12

Collas, Silvia

FRA

IM

2393

6.5

13

van Elst, Andreas

FRA

FM

2294

6.5

14

Janev, Evgeni

BUL

IM

2488

6.5

15

Collas, Didier

FRA

IM

2458

6.5

Winners from previous years:

Year Name Country Title Elo
2006 Jean-Marc Degraeve FRA GM 2540
2005 Anthony Kosten ENG GM 2522
2004 Viesturs Meiters LAT   2487
2003 Jean-Marc Degraeve FRA GM 2541
2002 Alexander Delchev BUL GM 2557
1992 Didier Collas FRA IM  


Playing hall: la Salle des fêtes


The Mohota sisters, Swati and Nisha, in front of the Salle des fêtes. One of the sisters will marry soon and if I keep my long hair until then, I will most likely attend the Indian wedding.


Aarthie Ramaswamy plays against the tournament winner Hichem Hamdouchi, who, by the way, came third in the Montpellier Open this year.


Adina-Maria Hamdouchi vs. Jean-Marc Degraeve


Mohota sisters: Swati and Nisha in full concentration


WGM Silvia Collas of France


GM Glenn C. Flear vs. WFM Meri Grigoryan


Clockwise from left: Armen Petorsyan, Nisha Mohota, Eric Prie, Aarthie Ramaswamy, Lejarre Ludovic, Meera Sai Ravi


Chief arbiter Stephen Boyd


Myself and arbiter Maya Todorova


Couscous night out in the city


Third from right is the organiser Allain Herrero, myself, Nariné and her husband Armen Petrosyan


After a nice dinner follows the traditional pétanque!


The annual summer fête: a brass band entertaining visitors


Video clip: the band playing “Emmenez-moi” by beloved Armenian Charles Aznavour


Can you imagine a fête without crêpes?


... or without roast potatoes?


Gateau a la broche, Aveyron’s speciality


Roquefort: visiting the cheese caves with friends

Roquefort (pronounced "rock-for") is sheep milk cheese produced in the south of France, which has distinctive veins of blue mold. This mold (Penicillium roqueforti) is found in the soil of the local caves. Traditionally the cheesemakers extracted it by leaving bread in the caves for six to eight weeks until it was consumed by the mold. The interior of the bread was then dried to produce a powder. Nowadays the mold is produced in laboratories, allowing for greater consistency. The mold may either be added to the curd, or introduced as an aerosol, through holes poked in the rind.


A boat trip on the river Tarn

I enjoyed myself enormously and I am looking forward to my next Saint Affrique trip! Incidentally, you can actually play in Montpellier International Open and then go to Saint Affrique, so you have five days to explore the surroundings and witness the annual summer fête. You get there via Montpellier or Nîmes and then by bus or via Saint Rome by train and then by bus.


A watercolour painting of Banyoles by Meri Grigoryan (with the painter reflected in the picture)


About the author

Born on 02.09.77 in Yerevan, Armenia, Meri Grigoryan was taught chess by her father and only coach. She became:

  • Woman Champion of Yerevan at the age of 12½ years
  • Yerevan boys under 21 champion at the age of 15
  • Armenian girls champion in all age groups
  • Girls U18 Olympiad of the USSR, 6th place (Spartakiada Narodov SSSR, Leningrad, 1990)
  • Left Armenia in the mid 90s and moved to London
  • UK British Grand Prixette 2002-2003
  • British Ladies Blitz Champion in 2004
  • Education: BA in Russian and Scandinavian Studies, Diploma in Translation. Spoken languages: Armenian, Russian, English, Danish, Czech, Polish, French.
  • Work: Chess teacher and interpreter.
  • Hobbies: Painting, photography (with a Panasonic DMC-FZ8), opera, taking guitar lessons, travelling, and above all writing.

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