The new faces of chess

9/2/2002 – Chess is for boring old fogies. Male fogies. Not any more! These days it can be about curls and dredlocks, plunging necklines and bra straps. Really! If you don't believe us just visit the French Championship at Val d'Isère. You will find corroborative pictures in our special report on this very attractive tournament. Oh, yes, what's-his-face won. Bacrot.

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Snowing Stars in Val d'Isère

The French Chess Championships took place in Val d'Isère form the 19th to the 31st of August. 1012 competitors were fighting in seven tournaments and for a total prize of €46 000.


French Champion Etienne Bacrot
Etienne Bacrot – simply the best!

For the fourth time, which is a unique and extraordinary performance at this level, Etienne Bacrot won the Title! Etienne beat Joel Lautier 1.5-0.5, after a thrilling playoff concluded in two rapid games (15 mins + 5 seconds a move).

In the first one, Etienne refuted in 27 moves, and with an impressive maestria, the line chosen by Joël on the Queen's Gambit Accepted. A fantastic demonstration of his strength to begin this Playoff!

Bacrot,E (2653) - Lautier,J (2665) [D20] National (departage 1) Val d'Isere, 31.08.2002: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 e5 4.Nf3 Bb4+ 5.Nc3 exd4 6.Nxd4 Ne7 7.Bxc4 0-0 8.Be3 Nbc6 9.Ndb5 Bd7 10.a3 Ba5 11.b4 Bb6 12.Bxb6 axb6 13.f4 Na7 14.Nxa7 Rxa7 15.0-0 Ng6 16.Qf3 c6 17.Qg3 Qc7 18.h4 Ne7 19.a4 Qd6 20.Rad1 Qxb4 21.Bxf7+ Rxf7 22.Rxd7 Ra8 23.Rfd1 Raf8 24.f5 Kh8 25.Kh2 Qc5 26.Ne2 Ng8 27.Nf4

and there's no defence against the decisive 28.Ne6!! 1-0.

[Replay the game]


Joël Lautier

In the second one, Joël was obliged to equlise! The French leading player (Elo 2665) was about to conclude a brilliant game, after a very active middle-game in a Spanish opening. Etienne tried to defend his critical position the best he can, but everybody was thinking that the young French IGM was supposed to resign. Then, the two finalists entered a dramatic zeïtnot, and Joël missed completely his analysis of this winning position, shutting in his King behind his pawns!

Lautier,J (2665) - Bacrot,E (2653) [C99] National (departage 2) Val d'Isere, 31.08.2002: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 cxd4 13.cxd4 Nc6 14.Nb3 a5 15.Be3 a4 16.Nbd2 Bd7 17.Rc1 Qb7 18.Qe2 Rfc8 19.Bb1 Rc7 20.a3 Rac8 21.Rcd1 exd4 22.Nxd4 Nxd4 23.Bxd4 b4 24.e5 dxe5 25.Bxe5 Rc6 26.Ne4 Ne8 27.Ng3 Be6 28.Be4 bxa3 29.bxa3 Bxa3 30.Ra1 Bb4 31.Reb1 Bb3 32.Nf5 Bf8 33.Nd4 Qa6 34.Qxa6 Rxa6 35.Bb7 Ra5 36.Bxc8 Rxe5 37.Nxb3 axb3 38.Rxb3 g6 39.Bd7 Nd6 40.Rd1 Kg7 41.Rbd3 Nc4 42.Rc3 Nd6 43.Ba4 Nf5 44.Rc7 Bd6 45.Rd7 Bb4 46.Bb3 Re7 47.Rxe7 Nxe7 48.Rd7 h5 49.Kf1 Bc5 50.Ke2 f5 51.f3 Kf6 52.Rc7 Bd6 53.Ra7 Bg3 54.Ra6+ Kg7 55.Re6 Ng8 56.Rb6 Nf6 57.Rb7+ Kh6 58.Rf7 Ne8 59.Re7 Ng7 60.Bf7 h4 61.Bc4 Nh5 62.Kd2 Nf4 63.Bf1 Bf2 64.Rd7 Kg5 65.Kc3 Kf6 66.Kc4 Ke6 67.Rb7 Nd5 68.Rb2 Ba7 69.Re2+ Ne3+ 70.Kd3 f4 71.Ra2 Bb8 72.Ke2 Bd6 73.Ra6 Ke5 74.Ra5+ Kf6 75.Kf2 Nd1+ 76.Kg1 Bb4 77.Rb5 Bc3 78.Bd3 Ne3 79.Rb6+

80.Rxg6 Be1 81.Ra6 Bg3 82.Ra4 Kd5 83.Re4 Kc5 84.Re8 Kd6

and White can never progress with is king permanently locked out. Draw.

[Replay the game]

The final standings of the Men's tournament showed how deep is definitely the gap between the old Russian IGM and their former "young French pupils": 1.Etienne Bacrot (2653) 7.5, Joël Lautier (2663) 7.5; 3. Iosif Dorfman (2617) 6.5; 4. Christian Bauer (2550), Andreï Sokolov (2587) 6.0; 6. Anatoli Vaïsser (2581) 5.5; 7. Cyril Marcelin (2470), Almira Skriptchenko-Lautier (2497) 5.0; 9. Jean-Marc Degraeve (2586), Laurent Fressinet (2619), Robert Fontaine (2514) 4.5; 12. Emmanuel Bricard (2454) 3.5.

Short analysis of the players performances.

Once again, J. Lautier missed the title, and we know already why!

Dorfman and mainly A. Sokolov played too many easy draws during the Money Time (the four last rounds) to keep a chance to win such a tournament. A. Vaïsser played as usual like a great fighter, but fundamentally his level is not anymore the one it was when he became French Champion in 1997.

For his first appearance, the young IM C. Marcelin played with too much temperance (six draws, two wins). Under pressure, Almira Skripchenko had everything to prove, but the fact is that she proved with elegance to all his detractors that she has already enough talent to perform in the male tournament!

At the last round, Jean-Marc Degreave played a very romantic Gambit Muzio (lost), may be in order to say to some of his opponents that the truth of this game is still to try to win with White, and not to try to draw… Precisely. L. Fressinet saved his weak tournament with seven draws (and only one victory). Unfortunately, R. Fontaine played at his promising level only after a disasterous start (0/4), but he learnt a lot!

And, to conclude, E. Bricard gave his Queen in one move in a winning position to E. Bacrot (round 8), and that summarises tragically his tournament performance.

Marie Sebag at the top of the hill!

As the experts had predicted the young and talented WIM Marie Sebag (15 years old!) easily won the Women's title, with seven victories, four draws and no defeat. Marie is really an attractive player, notably because she is always playing to win, even when she is playing with the black pieces! She has already won the European Champion 2001 title with the French women's team. Her objective is now to became WGM.

Final standing of the Women's tournament: 1. Marie Sebag (2344) 9.0; 2. Christine Flear (2176) 7.5; 3. Raphaelle Delahaye (2166) 7.5.


Aurélie Dacalor

Raphaelle Delahaye

Report and pictures by jpchess, alias MVN


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