Vachier-Lagrave wins French Championship

0 | Chess Event Coverage
Vachier-Lagrave wins French ChampionshipMaxime Vachier-Lagrave won the French Championship on Thursday. The top seed finished clear first with 7/11, half a point ahead of Etienne Bacrot, Laurent Fressinet, Andrei Istratescu and Sebastien Feller. In the final round Vachier-Lagrave held Bacrot to a draw, while co-leader Fressinet lost to Bauer.

General info

The 86th French Championship took place August 14-25 in the University of Caen, a commune in northwestern France, located 15 km inland from the English Channel. This year Laurent Fressinet defended his title against a strong field that included Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Etienne Bacrot. The rate of play was 40 moves in 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes to finish the game, with 30 seconds increment per move, from move one. Report on the first six rounds here.

Rounds 7-11

This year's French Championship was a very close affair, throughout the tournament. We already know that Istratescu and Vachier-Lagrave were sharing the lead after six rounds, and with many draws in round 7 things remained the same. The next day, reigning champ Laurent Fressinet joined the leaders thanks to a win against Shchekachev. And then, in round 9, Bacrot became co-leader as well, after beating Edouard in a nice attacking game:

Bacrot-Edouard Caen, 2011


18. Bxh6 gxh6 19. Rd3 Kh8 20. Qd2 Ng8 21. d5 Nc4 22. Bxc4 bxc4 23. Rd4 Bc5 24. dxe6 Bxd4 25. Qxd4 Qf6 26. exd7 Rcd8 27. Re3 Ne7 28. Rf3 Nc6 29. Nxf7+ 1-0

So four leaders, and just two rounds to go. Vachier-Lagrave and Laurent Fressinet got themselves in an excellent position for the final round. The former beat Emmanuel Bricard in a long and tough game, where his opponent might have missed a draw here and there. The latter won against veteran participant Iossif Dorfman, who would eventually finish on a decent eighth place.

The grand finale on Thursday saw the dream pairing Bacrot versus Vachier-Lagrave, while Fressinet had Black against Christian Bauer. The game between the two 2700s didn't disappoint the fans:

Bacrot - Vachier-Lagrave Caen, 2011

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Bd2 Bg7 6. e4 Nb6 7. Be3 O-O 8. Bb5 Be6 9. Nf3 N8d7 10. Be2 c5 11. dxc5 Nc4 12. Bxc4 Bxc4 13. Bd4 e5 14. Be3 Rc8 15. b3 Be6 16. b4 f5 17. Bg5

Bacrot - Vachier-Lagrave

It seems obvious that Black has to put his knight or bishop on f6 here, but Vachier-Lagrave goes for a queen sac! 17... Qe8!? 18. Nb5 Threatening 19.Nd6 when the black queen has no squares. There's no good way to prevent this, so Vachier-Lagrave must have decided on his next move in advance. 18...fxe4! 19. Nd6 exf3

Bacrot - Vachier-Lagrave

20. g3 20. Nxe8 fxg2 21. Rg1 Rfxe8 is also highly unclear. 20... e4 21. Nxe8 Rcxe8 and eventually this highly complicated game ended in a draw.

This meant that Fressinet was in the position to keep his title, but he lost to Bauer, who went "all in" from the start in a sharp Modern Defence. And so Vachier-Lagrave, who was the favourite for the title, finished clear first with 7/11.

On Sunday morning the tournament organizers faced an unfortunate surprise, as it became clear that 230 chess clocks had been stolen. For groups B, C and D the round had to be postponed for a day, and so they will only finish tomorrow.

Update: We were informed that this last bit is incorrect. In fact these groups switched rest days; they were supposed to play on the Sunday and have a rest day on the Monday, but after the theft the organizers made Sunday the rest day and Monday a playing day. The reason why the A group started a day earlier was because Bacrot, Feller, Fressinet and Vachier-Lagrave all had to travel to the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk shortly afterwards.

Selection of games rounds 7-11

Game viewer by ChessTempo

French Championship 2011 | Round 11 (Final) Standings


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