Vachier-Lagrave Shines As Clichy Clinches 14th French Championship

Vachier-Lagrave Shines As Clichy Clinches 14th French Championship

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

Taking revenge over reigning champion Bischwiller in the penultimate round, Clichy-Echecs-92 secured its 14th French Team Championship title with a round to spare. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave scored a superb 8.5/10 and is the new #4 in the live ratings.

Photo courtesy FFE.

On Tuesday the French Team Championship came to an end, after 11 days of chess (May 28-June 7) held in the Ladoucette Castle in Drancy, a commune in the northeastern suburbs of Paris (about 10km northeast of the city center). 

The Top 12 is the highest national division in France. It is a round robin event with 12 teams, and the winning club is crowned club champion of France. The teams consist of eight players, although it is allowed to bring more. One of the eight boards needs to be occupied by a female player.

After scoring three consecutive titles in 2012-2014, there was a hiatus last year as Clichy saw Bischwiller, from the Alsace region, winning all its matches. But this year order was restored, and the record holder of national French titles added one more to its collection.

Clichy, named after another commune north of Paris, this year played with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Laurent Fressinet, Jon Ludvig Hammer, Vlad Tkachiev, Loek van Wely, Pavel Tregubov, Hicham Hamdouchi, Axel Delorme, Almira Skripchenko, Pierre Barbot and Anaelle Afraoui.

2016 French League, Top 12 | Final Standings

# Team Pts j. d. p. c.
1 Clichy 32 11 37 46 9
2 Bischwiller 30 11 24 41 17
3 Mulhouse Philidor 26 11 6 28 22
4 Bois-Colombes 26 11 20 37 17
5 Nice Alekhine 25 11 9 30 21
6 Saint-Quentin 23 11 -2 24 26
7 C.E. Strasbourg 20 11 -5 22 27
8 E.C. Montpellier 19 11 -5 22 27
9 Vandoeuvre 18 11 -15 23 38
10 Drancy 16 11 -25 15 40
11 Chalons-En-Champagne 16 11 -15 19 34
12 Evry Grand Roque 13 11 -29 12 41

As can be seen from the final standings, there was only one serious rival for Clichy this year: reigning champion Bischwiller. That team played with Etienne Bacrot, Maxim Rodshtein, Arkadij Naiditsch, Romain Edouard, Yannick Pelletier, Jean-Pierre Le Roux, Philipp Schlosser, Claude Wagner and Nino Maisuradze.

After nine rounds these two teams were atop the standings after both had won eight matches and tied one (both against Bois-Colombes, who finished fourth with young guns like Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Alexander Ipatov and Axel Bachmann in its line-up).

The two teams met in the penultimate round, and Clichy was ready for revenge. Last year it lost to Bischwiller despite being higher rated. Return to our 2015 report to see the key game on board one where Anish Giri outplayed Laurent Fressinet.

Playing without Giri this year (who was active in Shamkir!) Bischwiller failed to repeat an upset. Clichy won 5.5-2.5 with wins for Vachier-Lagrave, Fressinet, Van Wely and Skripchenko. Naiditsch scored the only win for Bischwiller, against Hamdouchi.

Vachier-Lagrave's win over Rodshtein was mainly scored in a rook ending that Viktor Korchnoi would have been proud of.

Fressinet faced another giant of French chess, Bacrot. This game was also won after some subtle maneuvering and the white a pawn moving to a6 combined with the bishop on e4 cemented White's advantage.

Van Wely showed similar superiority of a bishop over a knight. The opening was interesting too; with Black's operation on the queenside he might have been thinking “this is equal” until KingLoek showed that White is still much better. Instructive!

We've seen one game of his already, but there should be more. The absolute star of the competition was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who played 10 of the 11 rounds and scored huge: three draws and seven wins. That was enough to win 8.6 Elo points and taking over the world #4 spot from Levon Aronian in the live ratings. (It must be noted that MVL only played Black twice.)

MVL's game in the last round was arguably the most interesting one he played in Drancy. Bluebaum is a real expert in this system.

A cool selfie with the winning team taken by team captain Jean-Baptiste Mullon (and posted on Facebook).

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

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