Jules Moussard and Almira Skripchenko win French Championships

by Dhananjay Khadilkar
8/23/2022 – Jules Moussard claimed his first French championship while Almira Skripchenko (pictured) won a record seventh women's national title at the French championship which was held from August 13 to August 21 in Albi, southern France. Skripchenko, who was tied on six national titles with Sophie Milliet prior to this year’s championship, defeated Natacha Benmesbah in the final round while Moussard got the better of Etienne Bacrot in a nail-biting encounter. | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund (Archive)

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The 2022 championship was a knockout affair featuring top 16 players in each category. The match format consisted of two classical games followed by tiebreakers. While Skripchenko won the title by beating her rival in both the classical games, the men’s final was decided in an armageddon tiebreaker.

Skripchenko said though she was one of the favourites by rating, in reality, she was a tournament underdog. "I have been out of practice since I don’t play chess much. I am very happy to win my seventh title. In general, winning any tournament is tough," Skripchenko told ChessBase.

Natacha Benmesbah (left) and Almira Skripchenko fight for the title of French Champion 2022 | Photo: French Chess Federation

Skripchenko believes her world cup and world championship experience came in handy. "It was the first time the French championship was played in a knockout format in which the price of every mistake is incredibly high," she said.

Moussard said he was very happy with his title win. "Until now, I had won the national championship in different age groups. This was the only missing title," Moussard told Chessbase. The 27-year-old came back from the brink by defeating Bacrot with black pieces in the second blitz game to tie the match before winning the armageddon decider.

Etienne Bacrot (left) and Jules Moussard during the finals | Photo: French Chess Federation

The win caps a good run of form for Moussard who gained 40 Elo points since March this year. "I have become much more serious since playing in the European championship in April. I am more focused. I prepare better and work a lot more on chess," he said.

Bacrot described the encounter against Moussard a ‘dream final’. "This was my best match of the tournament. Except for a couple of moves, the level of play was very high. I came very close to winning the match. However, Jules fought very well and won the armageddon decider," Bacrot said.

Despite missing out on winning the title, Bacrot is steadfast on his objective of winning 10 titles. "As I get older and the championship gets tougher, winning more titles is going to get more difficult. However,  I need to set myself some goals. Otherwise it’s not interesting," he said.

Two time winner Laurent Fressinet, who finished third, said he thoroughly enjoyed the knockout format.  "It was good to change the format from round robin to knock out. There is a lot of drama  and It  is much better for the audience," remarked Fressinet, who played two matches that were decided by armageddon tiebreakers.

French Champions 2022 | Photo: French Chess Federation

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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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