You cannot just play chess in Cannes!

by Nisha Mohota
4/16/2016 – At the end of February IM Nisha Mohota played in the Cannes open tournament in France. With 79 title-holders the event was extremely strong and perfect to fight for norms and rating points. However, there was one small problem. The former Indian National Champion just couldn't focus on chess! But why? Nisha Mohota's beautiful pictorial report gives an answer.

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Report from Cannes, France by IM Nisha Mohota

I made a 43 days long fun-filled Europe trip that culminated in France with the 30th Festival International des Jeux de Cannes which was held from 22nd February to 28th February. It was a nine round swiss event with 79 titled players out of the total 111 in the A group with 19 Grandmasters. A perfect tournament to play chess one might say! However, I complained just the opposite to the tournament director: “Everything is good here, but I cannot play chess!” I will get around to it, but first let's have a look at what happened in the A-group of the event!

Gata Kamsky of the US, who came here after winning the Cappelle la Grande, was the top seed.

Who says chess is not a spectator sport? The top board clash of round three, Gata Kamsky vs GM Shyam Sundar of India, was a crowd puller. The game ended in a draw. [Photo: Facebook page of Cannes echecs]

After the end of the penultimate round three players shared the lead with 6.5/8, and so the suspense on the winner continued till the last round.

GM Alexandr Fier of Brazil vs GM Evgeny Romanov of Russia was the top board clash in the final round which ended in a draw leaving the decision of the title to board two.

Sixteen-year-old GM Bai Jinshi of China (left) beat GM  Francesco Rambaldi of Italy with the black pieces to emerge clear champion and went home richer by 2200 Euros in his first visit to France.

The champion Bai Jinshi is flanked by Evgeny Romanov who stood second and Alexandr Fier who came third

India’s Abhijeet Gupta played a fine tournament and maintained his seeding by coming fourth, scoring 7.0/9 with a last round win against...

...GM Yannick Gozzoli of France, who was pushed to the eighth spot

Gata Kamsky, who stood fifth, with his girlfriend Vera Nebolsina of Russia

The local star of France, GM Adrien Demuth, who was the ‘news’ in Gibraltar after beating Anand with the black pieces. He finished sixth with 6.5/9 points.

French GM Jean-Marc Degraeve (right) was out of contention for the title after he lost his penultimate round to Evgeny Romanov. He had to satisfy himself with the seventh position.

The best woman prize went to Eesha Karavade of India, who scored 5.5/9 and showed some good chess (picture by Amruta Mokal)

It’s not often that we spot a tournament director doing post mortem with the players! Meet FM Romuald De Labaca, the director of this wonderful tournament, analysing the game of Bharath Subramaniyam of India. Also in the picture is Bharath’s elder brother, Balasubramaniam, both of whom played in the B group. [Picture courtesy Facebook page of Cannes Echecs]

Little geniuses with the organisers! The five stars from India consisted of R.Vaishali (World champion in under 12 girls in 2012 and under 14 girls in 2015), Balasubramaniam, Bharath Subramaniyam (world champion under 8 in 2015), R. Praggnanandhaa (world champion under 8 in 2013 and under 10 in 2015.) and GM Aravindh Chithambaram. Praggnanandhaa made his maiden IM norm, not even realizing that he had made one, and making it really look like child’s play

The final ranking list of group A (top 30). The complete list can be found here.

You can just see how strong the tournament was from the Standings list. Out of the top 30, only one player had a rating of below 2400! The quaity of chess played at this event was very high. But it's time now for the promised reason why it is simply impossible to play chess in Cannes!

When I got off the bus in Cannes I saw the green street which brought freshness to my mind!

These were the beautiful apartments where we stayed – yes, green everywhere again!

Beautiful sea view in front of our apartments!

On the way to the tournament hall

A big banner of the Games Festival in Cannes - chess is a part of this

A blend of the green trees and the blue sky and water, which mesmerized me in Cannes!

A square across the street. Make note of the unique trees on the left!

A view just outside the tournament venue

The Mediterranean sea

A street shop where I ate ice creams!

In this beautiful environment does one really want to play chess sitting indoors or...

..have fun outdoors? WIM Michelle Catherina, WIM Parnali Dharia and yours truly got this chance only on the last day. Unfair, isn’t it?

The beauty of the place does not end here. Cannes is famous for the annual Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals et des Congres and our tournament was held right there! It was very interesting for me to come to know that Cannes has ‘Chess in Schools’ for the last 20 years and so most people there know chess!

The first thing my eyes met with on entering the huge tournament hall was the chess shop with books, DVDs, clocks, chess sets and key chains. Nothing attracts a chess player more!

Next thing which I saw was the beautiful view from the tournament hall!

Despite the longing to be out in the open streets, there was still something which could motivate anyone to stay indoors and play chess and that was...

...the beautiful trophies in the three groups: A, B and C.

If natural beauty and chess were not enough stuff to enjoy, one could just walk down one floor and watch the games festival.

When I entered the games festival in the ground floor, it looked like I was in some wonderland with sweet little ones enjoying themselves!

Also it was the first time I saw a scrabble competition!

Playmobil on the red carpet!

I am sure you now understand what I meant when I said, you just cannot play chess! It was almost impossible to focus on the 64 squares when there was so much more to do! But I enjoyed myself here and have every reason to visit Cannes next year. Will you be joining me?


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Nisha Mohota became India’s youngest WIM in 1995 and India’s fourth WGM in 2003. Since February 2011 she has been a full IM – her highest ever Elo rating was 2416. She has represented India in 25 countries, playing for India in the 2004, 2008 and 2010 Olympiads. Her first love, chess, helps her continue her other passion: writing, photography and travelling.


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