Sarana, Bellahcene triumph in Cap d’Agde

by Dhananjay Khadilkar
11/8/2019 – Russian Grandmaster Alexey Sarana (pictured) won the Karpov Trophy while Algerian GM Bilel Bellahcene emerged victorious in the classical Grand Prix tournament at Cap d’Agde in southern France. Eight Grandmasters participated in Karpov Trophy, a 14-round rapid tournament. The top four finishers qualified for the knockout stage. In the semifinals, Sarana got the better of Indian GM Nihal Sarin while Bassem Amin defeated French GM Etienne Bacrot. In the final, Sarana won both the rapid games against Amin to win the title. | Photo: Pierre Textoris

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Bellahcene claims first title of 2019

Bellahcene won the classical Grand Prix ahead of International Master Gabriel Flom, who finished second, and GM Vitaly Sivuk who completed the podium. The top five finishers ended the nine-round tournament on an identical score of seven points but Bellahcene emerged victorious on the basis of his tiebreak score. 

The 21-year-old got off to a flying start, scoring 4½ points in the first five rounds. Bellahcene escaped with a draw from a losing position in the sixth round against Indian GM Stany GA. “It was important for my tournament prospects that I didn’t lose this game,” he said. 

Bellahcene’s chances of finishing first were significantly boosted after his win against GM Sivuk in the eighth and penultimate round. He duly claimed the title, his first of 2019, by drawing against GM Alberto David in the final round. 

Bilel Bellahcene

Bilel Bellahcene | Photo: Pierre Textoris


Speaking about the win, Bellahcene said he was very happy to be ending an otherwise disappointing year on a high.
“I lost 20 Elo points since the beginning of this year (from 2560 to 2540). This is one of my biggest wins. It was a strong tournament in which I was ranked ninth in the list as per the elo ratings. I am glad I didn’t lose a single game,” he said.

Bellahcene’s other highlight of the year has been his participation in the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk.

“I lost in the first round against Hikaru Nakamura. I drew the two classical games but he was too strong in the rapids. It was the first time I had played in the World Cup. It was a memorable experience,” he said.

Second GM norm for Flom

Second-placed Flom said he was delighted to share the top honours with Bellahcene. “Bilel is my chess partner. We have been training together for the past year and a half. We were room partners during the tournament,” he said.

The performance at Cap d’Agde earned Flom a second GM norm which he termed as an important and an emotional experience. “I played five tournaments this year for the norm but missed out by close margins. It was very painful.” 

Flom said that even getting the norm at Cap d’Agde was very intense. “I didn’t lose any game in the tournament but in the last round (against GM Stany GA) at some point I had a losing position. But during this game, I kept telling myself to fight until the end and keep posing problems to my opponent,” he said.

Flom salvaged a draw and achieved his second GM norm.

prize giving ceremony

Gabriel Flom (centre), Anatoly Karpov and Bilel Bellahceme (2nd from right) during the prize distribution ceremony | Photo: Pierre Textoris

Players in the Karpov Trophy rapid event

The eight Grandmasters who participated in the Karpov Trophy rapid event | Photo: Pierre Textoris

Results and standings

Karpov qualificationKarpov matches

Grand Prix

All available games



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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