Vachier-Lagrave wins Cimannacce Blitz

by Sagar Shah
7/13/2016 – Cimannacce, a village in the mountains of Corsica with a population of just 132 people (!), was host to a strong blitz tournament. World number four Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was the top seed of the event and was up against strong players like Bacrot, Laznicka, Areshchenko, Jones, Grandelius, Zhigalko, etc. The French number one scored 8.0/9 and won the event in style. In this report we have two games sent to us by MVL from the event. We also show you how a high class blitz tournament is organized.

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Maxime Vachier-Lagrave challenges International grandmasters

By Sagar Shah

In our part II report from Porticcio we ended the article with the above picture with the caption: World number four with a rating of 2798, Maxime Vachier Lagrave was also present in Porticcio. But what was he doing there? Had he come to just relax and play ping pong?

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, one of the best players in the world, had made his way to Corsica in order to play in the blitz tournament held in the village of Cimannacce.

“150 Elo points. That’s what separates me from him. And each point is worth its weight. I was playing a blitz game but it seemed he was playing a classical game. He had seen so much more than me!” This is how Daniel Naroditsky spoke about his 5 minutes + 3 seconds delay game against Maxime Vachier Lagrave in Ciamannacce. Both the players ended with the same score of 8.0/9, but MVL was the winner based on better tiebreaks. This is how the game went:

[Event "Ciamannacce blitz"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.07.03"] [Round "6"] [White "Naroditsky, Daniel"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B13"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "76"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [EventType "blitz"] [SourceDate "2016.07.05"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bf4 {Following in the footsteps of Baadur Jobava.} c5 4. e3 cxd4 5. exd4 a6 6. Nf3 Bg4 {Black plays in a simple manner. He brings his bishop outside the pawn chain before going ahead with e6.} 7. h3 Bxf3 {Bh5 was also possible but Maxime keeps it simple.} 8. Qxf3 Nc6 9. O-O-O e6 10. g4 Bb4 11. g5 Ng8 {The knight aims for the f5 square but white seems to have the initiative here.} 12. h4 Qa5 13. Kb1 Bxc3 14. Qxc3 Qxc3 15. bxc3 Nge7 16. c4 dxc4 17. Bxc4 b5 18. Bb3 (18. Bf1 {With the idea of Bg2 was also possible but Black is already fine.}) 18... Nd5 19. Bxd5 exd5 20. Be5 Rg8 21. h5 Kd7 { The position is around equal, but look how Maxime is able to prove that his knight is much superior to the white bishop.} 22. h6 g6 23. f4 Rgc8 (23... Ne7 $1) 24. Rh3 (24. f5 {Good or bad this should have been played.}) 24... Ne7 $1 { White is in for a big defensive task ahead.} 25. Ra3 Rc4 26. Kb2 a5 27. Bf6 Nf5 28. Rad3 Rac8 29. R1d2 b4 {Slowly and steadily White is completely outplayed.} 30. Re2 Kc6 31. a3 Kb5 32. axb4 axb4 33. Rb3 Nd6 34. Be5 Ne4 35. Bf6 Nc3 36. Re5 Ra8 37. Kc1 Rxd4 38. Rb1 Rd1+ {A very nice game by Maxime.} 0-1

With a rating of 2823 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is ranked sixth in the blitz world rankings. A player of his stature is usually seen in the Paris or Leuven Grand Chess Tour events. Yet, here he was in a tournament battling out against other 2600+ grandmasters!


The blitz tournament heading: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave challenges International grandmasters

The tournament was special because players like Bacrot, Laznicka, Areshchenko, Jones, Grandelius, Zhigalko, Romain, Naroditsky, Kuzubov, Maze, Cornette, Libiszewski are strong blitz exponents, none of them are pushovers. But here is a guy – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who is a cut above the rest. The spectators and fans watched in great anticipation whether Maxime would be able to show his superiority over others. And he did so in style. He beat Yuriy Kuzubov, Edouard Romain, Daniel Naroditsky and Fabien Libiszewski to score 8.0/9 and become the champion.

MVL was at ease on the chess board and faced not many difficulties in winning the first prize of €2,000. He scored seven wins, and two draws against Gawain Jones and Etienne Bacrot.

MVL’s short speech in French on winning the first place

Cimannacce is a small village nestled in the mountains of Corsica. So small that based on the 2008 census, the population of the village was only 132 people! Unbelievable, right! The tournament attracted 111 entries! This goes to show how popular chess is in Corsica. After the 3rd Porticcio Open ended on 1st of July, the players made an hour and a half journey on the next day to reach Ciamannacce village.

Within two hours we were transported from the blue waters of Porticcio…

…to the mountainous greenery of Ciamannacce. That’s how geographically diverse Corsica is.

The houses you see here are essentially where all the residents of Ciamannacce live!

The tournament hall with a canopy of leaves!

The village of Ciamannacce is so small that you could cover the entire place on foot within 15 minutes! Here we were in the mountains of Corsica with world number four Maxime Vachier Lagrave playing the event! The tournament was held on the 3rd of July and it was a nine round Swiss with time control of five minutes plus three second delay. The prize money of the event was a hefty €10,000.

To hold this tournament with prize money of €10,000 was possible only because of the efforts of Leo Battesti, president of the Corsican Chess Federation. Leo was playing in the event and scored 2.0/3 before he had to quit due to some urgent work.

Everyone knew that Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was the favourite to win the title. Many of the top grandmasters even said it was just the fight for the second spot. This prediction was true. Every time I completed my game and went to the top board I would see empty chairs. Maxime had already beaten his opponent. Here is one of Maxime’s favourite game from the event:

[Event "Ciamanacce"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.07.03"] [Round "3"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Dubessay, Bastien"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B81"] [WhiteElo "2798"] [BlackElo "2304"] [PlyCount "51"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e6 7. g4 Be7 8. g5 Nfd7 9. h4 b5 10. a3 Bb7 11. Be3 Nb6 12. Qh5 g6 13. Qg4 N8d7 14. h5 Ne5 15. Qg3 Rg8 16. hxg6 hxg6 17. O-O-O Na4 $6 (17... Rc8 {was better.}) 18. Ndxb5 $1 { Maxime is alert and doesn't have to be asked twice for a sacrifice.} axb5 ( 18... Nxb2 $5 19. Kxb2 axb5 20. Bxb5+ Kf8 (20... Bc6 21. Qxe5 Rb8 22. Rh8 Rf8 23. Rxf8+ Bxf8 24. Qf6 $16) 21. Bc5 $16) 19. Bxb5+ Bc6 20. Qxe5 $1 Bxb5 21. Qxb5+ Qd7 22. Qxd7+ Kxd7 23. Nxa4 Rxa4 24. f3 e5 25. c3 Rb8 26. Kc2 {and the game kept on for a few more moves, but the result was beyond doubt.} 1-0

In the end this is what the standings looked like:

Pl Nom Rtng
1 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2798
2 Naroditsky Daniel 2634
3 Areshchenko Alexander 2654
4 Libiszewski Fabien 2542
5 Edouard Romain 2639
6 Bacrot Etienne 2690
7 Zhigalko Sergei 2653
8 Jones Gawain 2650
9 Kuzubov Yuriy 2635
10 Laznicka Viktor 2654
11 Grandelius Nils 2643
12 Maze Sebastien 2628
Pl Nom Rtng
13 Sagar Shah 2433
14 Cornette Matthieu 2575
15 Tomasi Albert 2079
16 Podvin Antoine 1973
17 Piscopo Pierluigi 2261
18 Areshchenko Kateryna 2211
19 Revo Tatiana 2068
20 Brethes Francois 2186
21 Bacrot Alexandre 1984
22 Battesti Marc-Andria 1967
23 Porsia Pietro 1830
24 Mokal Amruta Sunil 2078

The only other player who could keep pace with Maxime and who also scored 8.0/9 was Daniel Naroditsky. Daniel was simply unstoppable as he got the better of Yuriy Kuzubov, Gawain Jones, Sergei Zhigalko and Alexander Areshchenko. But in the crucial match-up against MVL (see above), he couldn’t pull off an upset.

8.0/9, rating performance of 2852, and €1,500 are excellent numbers for Daniel Naroditsky


Alexnder Areshchenko finished third with 7.0/9. At the tournament
he had to pass through the extremely difficult test…

…of beating his wife Kateryna!

What’s that we have got? Areshchenko and Naroditsky try to figure out
the drink in the bottle inside the brown bag.

For all the inquisitive readers – it was a bottle of apple juice freshly
squeezed from the apples grown in Ciamannacce! It tasted fantastic!

Fourth place finish for Fabien Libiszewski who beat Edouard
Romain in the seventh round [photo by Fiona Steil-Antoni]

Fifth: Eduoard Romain of France

Etienne Bacrot scored a win in the penultimate round against
Areshchenko and a draw against MVL in the last round to finish sixth

Seventh: Sergei Zhigalko of Belarus

Gawain Jones was giving MVL a run for his money with a score of 6.5/7.
But he lost in the last two rounds to Naroditsky and Areshchenko to finish eighth.

The finish of the seventh round game between MVL and Gawain Jones
where the players split the point in a draw pawn endgame

Ninth: Yuri Kuzubov of Ukraine

Viktor Laznicka finished tenth by scoring 6.5/9

On the day before the tournament began Viktor and I indulged in some light trekking by walking
from Cozzano (the town where we had our hotel) to Ciamannacce for the opening ceremony.

This was Viktor’s warmup for the five day trek that he was going to undertake after the blitz tournament. He had chosen GR-20 which is considered by many as the toughest long distance trail in Europe. His trek ended on the 8th of July and he managed to survive with some blisters. Viktor described it as a good and exhausting experience. For all those planning Porticcio + Ciamannacce next year: like to join him on the GR-20 trek?

IM Deimante Daulyte (2406) was by far the strongest female player in the tournament. She started off well with 3.0/3 and a win over Etienne Bacrot. But in the end she could score only 5.5/9 and finished 25th.

Kateryna Areshchenko, Tatiana Revo and Amruta Mokal (photographer of this report)
were awarded the best woman players of the event, each scoring 6.0/9

I wonder if you can find better designed trophies than these

Trophies, clocks, books, DGT boxes – different prizes for different ages

The players were also given gift bags with products that were manufactured in the Ciamannacce region. This is what Amruta received for her third best woman player prize: gifts worth €40. It includes jams, perfumes, cookies, soap, oil and a basket!

How encouraging for these young kids to get a prize from a top player like MVL! Also notice the innovative prizes that the organizers have come up with. This boy has not only won a trophy but also a DGT chess box that includes a ChessBase DVD, a folding chess set and a chess clock!

Talented youngsters of Corsica: Julien Morison (he won against Vachier-Lagrave in the simul that was held the day before the blitz event), Nabil Bouslimi, and Albert Tomasi. A few words must be said about Albert. He is just twelve years old, the reigning under-12 French champion and already boasts an Elo of 2252. The chess players of Corsica hope that he will be the first grandmaster from the island.

Martin Tomasi, father of the talented Albert Tomasi and husband of Marie Paul,
president of Ajaccio chess club, played a fine tournament and won a prize!

In between the rounds you could enjoy croissants provided by the organisers

St Georges water is the star of Corsican water and a pure 0% Nitrate product of its mountains.

Lunch was provided to all the participants of the event at no cost

A fruit lover like me was in for a treat!

A day prior to the blitz tournament all the participants were invited for a grand barbecue dinner

There were some very interesting traditional Corsican performances

This video shows a modern rock band and a traditional Corsican dance!

Naturally the players had a good time!

Mayor of Ciamannacce, Felicia Francisci, left no stone unturned in her efforts to provide the participants with everything they needed. The small village of Ciamannacce set a perfect example of how a high class tournament should be conducted.

Pictures by Amruta Mokal



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Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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