Lagarde, Guichard bag French national titles in thrilling finale

by Dhananjay Khadilkar
8/27/2019 – The 2019 French Championships concluded on Sunday in Chartres, capital of the Eure-et-Loir department. Both the open and women's categories were decided on tiebreaks. In the end, Pauline Guichard got her second consecutive national title after taking down six-time champion Sophie Milliet, while Maxime Lagarde became French champion for the first time after beating Laurent Fressinet in the blitz phase of the play-offs. DHANANJAY KHADILKAR reports. | Photo: Fédération Française des Échecs

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Championnat de France 2019

Maxime Lagarde and Pauline Guichard were crowned French champions following a thrilling conclusion to the Championnat de France at Chartres on Sunday. While this was Lagarde's maiden national title, Guichard made it two in a row after winning her first championship last year. Both emerged victorious after beating Laurent Fressinet and Sophie Milliet respectively in tiebreaks. 

In the ninth and final round of the classical format, the joint leaders in both categories produced identical results. While Lagarde beat Yannick Gozzoli, Fressinet got the better of Sebastien Maze to end up on six points. On the women's side, Milliet cruised to a win over Cyrielle Monpeurt while Guichard had to fight hard against Nino Maisuradze to claim a full point. Both Milliet and Guichard ended the tournament on seven points.

Key games from Round 9 - Both categories

 

Maxime Lagarde, Laurent Fressinet, Pauline Guichard, Sophie Milliet

All set for the play-offs | Photo: Official site

The women's title was determined at the end of the two rapid tiebreak games. Guichard won the first encounter with the black pieces and managed to draw the second with white to emerge victorious.

Guichard said she was lucky to have won this year's championship. "Of course, I am very happy. But it was a bit difficult as I didn't play very well. In three games, I was in losing positions. I managed clear wins in only two [out of the five] games that I won. It's a bit weird as I don't know why I played so bad. Last year, I played much better. [This year] I was very lucky", she remarked. 

Tiebreak games (Women's section)

 

Pauline Guichard, Sophie Milliet, Andrea-Cristina Navrotescu

Pauline Guichard, Sophie Milliet and Andrea-Cristina Navrotescu are the top three finishers | Photo: Official site

Final standings (Women)

 

All games (Women)

 

The open title went down to the wire. It was Laurent who had gained an upper hand by winning the first rapid game with the black pieces. However, in the must-win second game, Lagarde stormed back to level the score. The title was eventually decided in the second of the two blitz games, the first of which ended in a draw. Lagarde scored a smooth win and claimed his first national title.

Lagarde termed the tiebreak as incredible. "I feel very happy and completely exhausted. There was so much pressure", he told me. About his comeback in the must-win rapid game after losing the first, Lagarde said he had been in similar situations in other tournaments. "I was still focused. I was going to give it everything as I had nothing to lose", he concluded.

Tiebreak games (Open section)

 

Maxime Lagarde, Laurent Fressinet, Jules Moussard

Maxime Lagarde, Laurent Fressinet and Jules Moussard on the podium | Photo: Official site

Final standings (Open)

 

All games (Open)

 

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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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anthonyy anthonyy 8/27/2019 09:21
Could you please stop saying that it is thrilling to attribute
a national title with a blitz game (or worse, Armageddon,
as is sometimes the case)? For instance in 1983, after a 16-player
Round-Robin tournament, the French title was decided by a 6-game
match some weeks later between Aldo Haïk and Pascal Herb ...
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