A joyful time in Paris

by Diana Mihajlova
10/13/2018 – Have you ever been in the right place at the right time? That is precisely what happened to DIANA MIHAJLOVA, who reported from the Paris Championship in the midst of a citywide bash: France had just won the FIFA World Cup! The longstanding tournament organised in the ‘City of Light’ was won by the talented youngster Jules Moussard. Let’s dive into the pictorial report filled with anecdotes, places and faces. | All photos: Diana Mihajlova

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Chess à la Parisienne 

As chance would have it, my arrival at the French capital for the Paris Chess Championship coincided with an event that shook France, probably with a greater force than the French Revolution. OK, the comparison is exaggerated, but witnessing the exhilaration and euphoria in the French capital was beyond the imagination. The reason? France had just won the football World Cup!

The 2018 FIFA World Cup final took place on July 15th at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, when, for a 13th time, a European Champion was crowned: France! After knocking off Croatia 4:2 in the final round, France captured its second World Cup, twenty years after its first, in 1998. On this historic day for Les Bleus, no monument in the city was left without a sumptuous decoration and lighting of all colours — but especially of blue-white-and-red. Paris was lit in such a luxurious way that the moniker ‘City of Lights’ has never been more apt. 

France gives World Cup winners a heroes' welcome on the Champs-Élysées | Photos: AFP Reuters, Getty images

It could not be better timed: only the night before, the skies were lit with fireworks that traditionally commemorated the 14th of July, the day when, in 1789, the French Revolution began with the storming of the Bastille. 

Bastille

The sky-piercing monument on the Bastille Square, a glorious memento of the French Revolution 

Initially, it was just a column that was built based on the Trajan column from Rome. In the later stages of its many years of construction and improvements, the Genie of Liberty was added to it, an allegorical statue depicting Liberty as a masculine, winged genie, flying off with a torch in the right hand, broken chains in the left hand and a star on his forehead. This gilded sculpture, made by August Dumont, is a symbol of several revolutions that were triggered by the first one from 1789, fought against the French monarchy in order to establish democracy with the famous motto: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity). 

Another Paris event, closer to our hearts, was unfolding in the midst of all these glorious happenings: a bit further west from the Bastille square, in the Bois de Boulogne region, in the sports complex ‘Salle Coubertin’, a storm of a different kind was taking place: a fight in raging silence, the 2018 Paris Chess Championship.

The organisers this year decided to change the dates and make the start of the tournament on the same day of the French Revolution, July 14th. Players could enjoy celebrations on the eve and enter the 9-round championship, hopefully, invigorated with a revolutionary spirit.

458 players competed in the FIDE Open (above 2200), Open A (1800-2300), Open B (1400-1900) and Open C (U-1500) tournaments, on 14–21 July. 

Diana Mihajlova surveys the comfortable playing hall in the sports complex ‘Salle Coubertin’

Most of the French up-and-coming young forces were there, plus some foreign players, including:

French IMs Christophe Sochacki, Charles Monroy, Julien Song

FM Rein Verstraeten (BEL), FM Adel Choukr (MAR), FM Thomas O'Sullivan (FRA), Reddy M.L Abhilash (IND)

FM Dorian Micottis (FRA), Krishnater Kushager (IND), FM Kim Le Quang (BEL), FM Louis Sanchez (FRA)

Brought together by chess, two Indian parents and a grandmother would sit patiently in a top corner of the stands, friendly sharing the long waiting hours while their charges fought downstairs in the playing hall…

(L-R) Nadia, Mylvaganam and Sangeeta

Nadia, an energetic grandmother, is accompanying around the globe her 12 –year old nephew, Pranav Anand, who played in the FIDE Open. She is anxious to see him climb up, commenting that a sponsorship would greatly ease their enormous travel and living expenses while participating at international tournaments, and would help them hire a trainer to direct her nephew’s progress. Pranav, who won the U-8 World Championship in 2016, fully deserves it: at the Stockholm Chess Challenge, a couple of months earlier, he crossed the 2300 Elo barrier and got his final norm for a FIDE Master title, which has already been officially approved.

Mr Mylvaganam is based in France, and his son Vithuson is embarking on the chess adventure by participating in the Open C tournament.

Sangeeta, WIM Vantika Agrawal’s mother, is very emotionally involved in her daughter’s chess career’s ups and downs. The list of their 2018 chess tournaments include Aeroflot, Paris Championship, Biel, Abu Dhabi and Isle of Man. Vantika was a bronze winner at the World U-14 in 2015. She attached a mission to her participation at the Biel Master Tournament, where they were heading immediately after Paris: to see her idol in person, Magnus Carlsen.  

FM Pranav Anand, WIM Vantika Agrawal

The buddies: (L-R) FM Yovan Gatineau, who achieved his first IM norm, and FM Fahim Mohammad, whose life story, after our article of several years ago, is being portrayed in a movie that is currently touring in France (a full report will follow soon)

Roger Ferry

Roger Ferry

The oldest participant, Roger Ferry, who rarely misses the Paris Championship, could often be seen as a lonely figure, finishing last, keeping his much younger opponents strenuously until late into the night. At 85, he has played a record fifty consecutive French Championships!

Jules Moussard and Pauline Guichard

GM Jules Moussard and WGM Pauline Guichard are among the young French chess elite

Not many female players were present, but WGM Pauline Guichard was there and fought tenaciously in the FIDE Open, finishing on 6/9. A delightfully calm, friendly person, Pauline is a medical doctor by profession, but she manages to fit chess in her working schedule as much as possible, including her representing France in the female squad at the recent Olympiad, where she achieved a notable success having made the greatest number of points for her team (7/10). 2018 will definitely be Pauline’s most successful year, as for the first time in her career she was crowned French Woman Champion, at the French Championship that took place in Nimes soon after the Paris Championship.

The newly crowned Paris Chess Champion, GM Jules Moussard

Jules did not disappoint as he is feted the most promising young French player. He had already won the Paris Championship in 2016. The tournament’s IA Nadir Bounzou predicts: "Moussard will probably be the next to join the French national team, in the very near future".

By winning the last round, with 7½/ 9, he ended up a whole point ahead of his immediate rivals: GM Namig Guliyev (AZE), IM Fabien Guilleux (FRA) and IM Christophe Sochacki (FRA).

The FIDE Open Winners: (L-R) IM Fabien Guilleux (3rd), GM Jules Moussard, GM Namig Guliyev (2nd ) | Photo: idf-echecs.com

Turkish WFM Caglar Sila was the best woman player with 5½/9, a performance of 2425 and a WGM norm

The winner of the Open A, Amardeep Bartakke (IND)

The winner of the Open B, the cheeky Oscar Tardi (FRA), with a perfect score of 9/9

Tongon Sumiya from Mongolia won the Open C, leaving behind French juniors Alex Zhu and Ilan Perla

The IM norm achievers: Indians Ojas Kulkarni and FM Anand Nadar

FA Loriane Lebret, who was in charge of the FIDE Open, and her colleagues (L-R): Nadir Bounzou, Alfredo Lorenzo, Khaled Benaddou, Rodolphe Cosmi and Vincent Leitienne | Photo: idf-echecs.com 

Diana Mihajlova with IA Nadir Bounzou 

A highly respected and knowledgeable arbiter, Nadir patiently would enlighten me about various aspects of the tournament and general curiosities about chess in France. According to him, the Paris Championship has played a significant role in the formation of the French international rising stars, all of whom had passed through the grinding of the competition. "They have grown up with the Paris Championship", as he would put it. Joël Lautier won in 2000; Laurent  Fressinet in 2002 and 2005; Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in 2007 and 2008. 

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Paris Champion in 2008 | Photo: idf-echecs.com

One of the oldest tournaments in the world, the first Paris City Chess Championship was held in 1925. Alexander Alekhine won it in 1933, and the celebrated French player Nicolas Rossolimo was the winner in 1934, 1936, 1937, 1947, 1948 and 1949.

It is therefore surprising that the Paris Championship remains largely unfunded — the organisers being unable to attract more generous sponsors. OK, it is not football, but it is still the pride of the world-famed French capital! 

The driving force behind the Paris Championship, over many years, has been André Rasneur.  A president of the organising club, the Paris Ile de France. A member of the French Olympic committee, Rasneur has put his heart and soul into the Paris Championship. He has fought to maintain the Championship alive in spite of reduced finances. The prize fund gets more modest each year; he manages to keep solid, albeit reduced, prizes for all four Opens and a first prize of 2,500 euros for the Paris Champion. However, there is a lack of funds when it comes to inviting international titled players.

Andre Rasneur

André Rasneur

André has more success with securing funds for young players, a cause to which he has dedicated his time dearly. He only arrived at the Paris Championship on time for the prize-giving ceremony, as he was chaperoning the French youth team at the Glorney Cup (U-18) in Ireland, where they claimed victory for a second consecutive year, and, as a result, Paris is scheduled to host the event in the spring of 2020. The Glorney Cup is a section of a four- competitions event, The Glorney Gilbert International, which has been running continuously since 1949.  

Glorney Cup poster and the winning French team: (L-R) Théo Lutard, Nathan Weisman, Matthieu Hingouet, Thomas Naillou and Jacques Dreyfus

The Paris Championship was played at the well-appointed sports complex Stade Pierre de Coubertin in the 16th arrondissement (district). The Deputy Mayor of this prestigious Paris neighbourhood, Mrs Samia Karam, paid a visit and discussed with great interest the possibility of maintaining and helping further the Paris Championship as an important feature among the district’s sport activities.  As she is also in charge of the Sports, Youth and Schools Fund, she showed particular interest in the promotion of chess as a school subject. 

André Rasneur and Samia Karam are joining forces as the Paris Championship’s defenders and saviours

On that note, we hope that the Paris Championship will continue its invigorating path, with new means and supporters. It is undoubtedly an important event in the international chess calendar. 

Paris abounds with numerous famous landmarks; however, the Seine remains its most fabulous decoration, with its thirty-seven bridges and sailing bateaux-mouches (open excursion boats).

Diana Mihajlova crossing the Seine River over the Alexandre III bridge on her way to work 

An entertainer, a clown (a pagliaccio, in its Italian origin) on the Pont des Arts (the Bridge of Arts)

Final standings (top 25)

1 g MOUSSARD Jules 2559 F
2 g GULIYEV Namig 2545 F
3 m GUILLEUX Fabien 2387 F
4 m SOCHACKI Christophe 2450 F
5 m SONG Julien 2308 F 6
6 f ANAND NADAR 2346 F 6
7 m RAJESH V A V 2309 F 6
8 f GATINEAU Yovann 2373 F 6
9 m RAVI Teja S. 2360 F
10 ff CAGLAR Sila 2204 F
11 g LALITH BABU M R 2529 F
12   OJAS KULKARNI 2226 F
13 f HARUTYUNYAN Ruben 2303 F
14 f LE QUANG Kim 2261 F
15 m KRISHNA C R G 2399 F 5
16 f SAMOUN Florent 2313 F 5
17   BONTE Andrei-Mihai 2295 F 5
18 f MITHIL Ajgaonkar 2300 F 5
19 gf GUICHARD Pauline 2379 F 5
20 f MOHAMMAD Fahim 2383 F 5
21 m BILGUUN Sumiya 2490 F
22 m SOCHACKI Wojtek 2338 F
23 f MICOTTIS Dorian 2279 F
24   IGLESIAS Joachim 2246 F
25 f TOMASI Albert 2302 F

All available games

 

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A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.
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