Men and women together in Val d'Isère

by ChessBase
8/27/2002 – In France the national championship, with a total of over 1000 players, has men and women playing on the same stage in Val d'Isère. For the first time ever one of the women, Almira Skripchenko, is even playing in the top men's section. The women's section is being led by the young and very talented Marie Sebag (2344, picture right). More

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Chess and vertigo in Val d'Isère

The Nao Chess Club French Chess Championships 2002 is hosted since 18th of August by the town of Val d'Isère, the focal point of the French paradise of skiing and snowboarding. All around, the famous Espace Killy Ski offers indeed nearby 11,000 hectares of skiing area, with more than 10,000 hectares of off-piste and 1,000 hectares of slopes!

The venue, with the top French Men and Women playing together. [©Photothèque Europe-Echecs]

The National, played by Joel Lautier, Etienne Bacrot, Laurent Fressinet, Josif Dorfman, Andrei Sokolov, Jean-Marc Delgraeve, Anatoli Vaisser, Christian Bauer, Robert Fontaine, Almira Skripchenko-Lautier, Cyril Marcelin and Emmanuel Bricard, is a round-robin with 11 rounds. Time limit is 1h 40m to play 40 moves, then 40 minutes to reach the 60th move, with extra 30 seconds for each move from the start and to finish the game after the 60th move.

All in all, 1012 players are fighting in seven tournaments, for a total prize of 46,000 Euros: €18,000 for Men (€4,500 for the winner), €4,500 for women (€1,200 for the winner), €3,500 for the Veterans (€800 for the winner).

According to the classifications of the players engaged, this is the strongest French Championships ever played, with 12 GMs, 18 IMs and 303 players with a FIDE rating.

Men and Women are performing just at the bottom of the Face of Bellevarde, the legendary and really impressive Olympic downhill run! Does it gave the vertigo to some of the French champions? In fact, the National 2002 is really strange.

Christian Bauer watching the disastrous game played by Etienne Bacrot against the IM Cyril Marcelin [©Photothèque Europe-Echecs]

Everybody seems able to beat everybody! Etienne Bacrot (2653) was leading after the round 5 (4/5), then he lost a supposed "easy game" against IM Cyril Marcelin (2450).

Anatoli Vaïsser (left) and Almira Skripchenko-Lautier analysing their game with Fritz7 and Chessbase 8 on the computer of jpchess, always available to assist grand masters! [©Photothèque Europe-Echecs]

The same day, the "veteran" Anatoly Vaïsser took the lead after a nice victory against the WGM Almira Skriptchenko-Lautier (2497), but he lost the day after against Joël Lautier.

Almira, who is the former European Women Champion, was invited to play in the "male tournament", maybe because she's too pretty!? On another part, she is one of the four affiliates of the Nao Chess club, the official sponsor of the Championships 2002. But the WGM is playing good games against her rivals, e.g., she has mated on the board the poor Laurent Fressinet (2619), who was one of the favourites, but who scored unfortunately an horrible 1,5/6 at the start, with a performance at 2361!

Jean-Marc Degreave and Christian Bauer are playing up and down games. Jean-Marc arrived in Val d'Isère just after a fantastic trip in Canada, where he has played 29 games in 29 days. It is clear that he is tired, but he still has enough resources to beat each one of his future opponents, e.g. Andrei Sokolov (round 10). Christian is assisted in Val d'Isère by the Swiss IGM Yannick Pelletier. Unhappily. He lost his last chance to win after a dramatic game against Jean-Marc (round 7), coming after a rough defeat against Etienne Bacrot at the beginning of the tournament.

Even though the weather outside is awful (cold, with storms and rain), all the games are very attractive, with not so many easy draws, except the one played by Vaïsser and Bacrot (11 moves). The three former soviet players Josif Dorfman (2617), Andreï Sokolov (2587) and Anatoli Vaïsser (2581) are playing a consistent tournament. At the beginning of the round 8, each of them is still able to become French champion!

Robert Fontaine [©Photothèque Europe-Echecs]

The young IM Robert Fontaine, from Cannes-Echecs, is learning something new day after day, preparing himself for his future at the highest level. After four terrible defeats to begin, he has scored two half points during the last three rounds, which is extremely good. Anyway, Robert is a real gentleman, always positive and optimistic, even after he lost a game. The same is true for Cyril Marcelin and Emmanuel Bricard, who has lost too many points during the first rounds.

Now the players have enter the money time. The one who will lose a fight will lose the title! It is clear that the two Nao's affiliates still in competition for the final victory are under pressure. One of them must win the tournament. Etienne Bacrot is still the favourite, a half point ahead Lautier, Sokolov, and Vaïsser. But Etienne will have to play two decisive games to triumph for the 4th time in the National, one against his colleague Joël (round 10), another one against his trainer Josif Dorfman (round 11). Let's see the games!

A wonderful tournament for the young French WM Marie Sebag, who is reaching step by step the highest level! [©Photothèque Europe-Echecs]

The Women's championships is actually led by the young and talented WM Marie Sebag (2344), a half point ahead the Juniors French Champion Sophie Milliet (2173). In fact, Marie is about to realize a tremendous performance. She has just conceded a draw to Sophie (round 3), and she has won her six other games! Marie should be the final victor after the 11th round, which will be played on Friday 30th.

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