French League Top 12 Under Way
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This week many strong chess players can be found in the small town of Haguenau, about 30 km north of Strassbourg, France. Big names such as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Laurent Fressinet, Loek van Wely, Arkadij Naiditsch and Radoslaw Wojtaszek are there to compete in the "Top 12" of the French League.
France is one of the countries where the club competition is played out in one long week. Contrary to e.g. the German Bundesliga, where fifteen rounds are divided over several weekends throughout the season, the French "Top 12" is all played out at once. This year it runs May 30th - June 9th.
At the time of writing five rounds have been played. The team from Clichy (a commune in the northwestern suburbs of Paris) has started with five victories and that includes the big match-up against the second strongest team on paper, Châlons-en-Champagne, yes, from same the region as the famous French drink!
Here's how that match Clichy vs Châlons-en-Champagne went. On first board Hungarian GM Richard Rapport, the winner of the Sigeman & Co tournament, defeated GM Alberto David, who recently switched federations from Luxembourg to Italy. This Nimzo/Queen's Indian was Rapport's fourth victory for Clichy in as many games - not bad for a first season!
On board two Dutch grandmaster Loek van Wely defeated Romain Edouard of France with the black pieces in a Paulsen Sicilian.
Clichy also has the strong Russian grandmaster Dmitry Jakovenko, but he lost to another Dutch GM (born in former Yugoslavia): Ivan Sokolov. This point for Châlons-en-Champagne was the result of interesting gambit play by Black!
The French number two (behind Etienne Bacrot) is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and he also plays for Clichy. He scored an impressive win from a slightly better ending.
Châlons-en-Champagne scored on board five and six:
On the last board two women players faced each other - in the French league it's obligatory to have at least one female player in the line-up. Almira Skripchenko, the wife of French GM Laurent Fressinet (also playing for Clichy!) and a regular poker player, still plays some chess as well:
Let's finish with a small puzzle, because we came across the following game which had a nice finish. Can you find it?
French league top 12 | Round 5 standings
|3||Chalons en Champagne||5||8||9||17||12|
|6||Evry Grand Roque||5||4||7||11||11|