The first Fontainebleau chess festival

by Dhananjay Khadilkar
7/27/2021 – The week long Festival de Fontainebleau chess tournament which started on 18 July doesn't feature any Grandmasters or International Masters. While the Open section comprises players with ratings under 2000, competitors in the three closed tournaments - each of which has eight players - have Elo ratings ranging from around 1800 to 2200. But what makes this tournament unique is its location and the Covid-19 related health controls that have been put in place here. | Photos: Club d'échecs de Fontainebleau-Avon

The Classical French - Main Line The Classical French - Main Line

After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3, the author takes a detailed look at a daring line with 7... cxd4 8. Nd4 Qb6, as well as the quieter plans with 7...cxd4 8. Nd4 Bc5, and the main line with 7... a6 and b5.


An imperial city, a Covid-19 health pass and a chess tournament

To combat the Covid-19 pandemic, France rolled out a new system starting July 21 under which individuals wanting to access museums, cinemas and sports venues have to show a Covid-19 vaccination certificate or a negative PCR/antigen test result. This 'health pass' is required for all events with more than 50 people.

Nicolas Rudiano is one of the players who got an antigen test done on Wednesday morning. As per the rules, the test  has to be done at least 48 hours before entering the establishment. This means the non-vaccinated players will have to show another test result for the final two days of the tournament.

To finally play over the board again, players accept the regulations for participating willingly.

"Once was ok. But to do it again is a bit annoying," says Rudiano, who does the one hour commute from Paris to the venue and back every day.

But despite the new rules, the tournament's first edition, appears to have been well received with 82 players participating in the event.

The spacious, and beautiful facility of the tournament hall was surely something special for almost all participants.

Tournament organizer Adrien Lambert, who now has an added responsibility of checking the players health pass before the rounds start, feels the location has been a key factor.
"We could have had the opportunity to organize this tournament in a gymnasium outside the city. It would have been more practical. But, for the players, it's brilliant here. It's a privilege to have a tournament here," he says.

Event organizer Adrien Lambert (right) with a tournament winner.

One of over 1500, amazingly looking rooms in the Fontainebleau castle - The Grand Salon

The Gallery of Diana

The Club de Fontainebleau-Avon had been trying to organize a week-long tournament for five years. "This year, the town hall of Fontainebleau decided to support the event by allowing us to use the venue for free. That was the decisive factor," he says.

A spectacular place to play chess - Fontainebleau

The tournament venue is the Theatre Municipal de Fontainebleau which is located in the city centre of the city and a stone's throw away from the famous castle. The Italian styled theatre, is more than one hundred years old. The room where the tournament is held is airy and spacious with a high ceiling and magnificent paintings.

This part was probably one of the most stunning areas of the playing hall

For Sven Goldschmidt, who came all the way from Ghent in Belgium and who had never heard of Fontainebleau, the charm of the playing hall was an added bonus.

"This is my first time in Fontainebleau. It's a beautiful town and a really nice location with a majestic castle and a huge forest in its proximity," says Goldschmidt, who drove from Ghent to a small town near Fontainebleau in a camping car. Every day, he undertakes a 25-minute bicycle ride to reach the venue from the camping site.

"I have already hiked a bit in the forest. I am eager to visit the castle, which apparently served as a residence for many French kings," he says.

Parts of the old castle require refurbishment

Perhaps, the most famous occupant of the castle whose origins go back to the 12th century, was Napoleon Bonaparte. It was Napoleon who restored and refurnished the 1500-room castle in 1804. And it was in one of the rooms (which is neatly preserved) in the Fontainebleau castle where Napoleon signed his abdication following the invasion of France by the Allied powers in 1814.

The room at the Fontainebleau where the Treaty was signed in 1814

The castle hosts a museum dedicated to Napoleon with items such as his hat, throne, coronation sword and tunic, pistols, furniture and hundreds of art objects on display.
Also, on display are two chess tables from the Napoleonic era!

Those two chessboards fit perfectly well to the whole environment. The work was created by stone workshops of Florence for Napoleon.

Napoleon's throne room, which was the former bedroom for various kings of France

French Defence Powerbase 2021

The French Defence Powerbase 2021 is a database and contains 9839 games from the Mega 2021 and the Correspondence Database 2020, 644 of which are annotated.

French Defence Powerbook 2021

The main part of the material on which the French Powerbook 2021 is based comes from the engine room: 637,000 games. An impressive number to which 80,000 games from correspondence chess and the Mega were added.


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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