Reports Jun 10, 2015 | 8:08 AMby Colin McGourty

French Top 12 finale: Shocks, but no surprises

Anish Giri scored 8/10 on top board as his team Bischwiller steamrollered their way to the Top 12 French Team Championship with a perfect 11 wins in 11 matches. Favourites and winners for the last three years Clichy kept up the pressure, but couldn’t recover from their Round 6 loss to the new champions. The final two rounds were notable for some shock results, with Wesley So falling to a Sergey Fedorchuk counterattack and Arkadij Naiditsch ending a disastrous tournament with a loss to Marie Sebag.

It was always going to take something special to beat Clichy, and Bischwiller's perfect 11 wins was certainly that! Anish Giri (7 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss) and Markus Ragger (6 wins, 2 draws) were the star players | photo: French Chess Federation

Bischwiller had the 2015 French title done and dusted when they beat Strasbourg 4.5:3.5 in the penultimate round, with wins for Romain Edouard and a 7th win of the event for Anish Giri sealing the match.

It didn’t matter that German no. 1 Arkadij Naiditsch ended with a fourth loss of the event:

White is busted, and France’s top female player Marie Sebag (2483) went on to win comfortably. Naiditsch dropped 31.9 points and 25 ranking places to 2690.1, only winning his very first game in the French League.

Round 10 saw upsets all round, and the games are great fun to play through:

Clichy scored another easy win, but Wesley So’s previously smooth performance in Le Grau-du-Roi (5 wins, 4 draws) came to a shuddering halt against Sergey Fedorchuk. 

Wesley So faces Fedorchuk as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave drew with Sebastien Feller | photo: French Chess Federation

It had seemed as though the US no. 2, playing White, was going to notch up another win:

But after 20…Qg4 Fedorchuk managed to exchange off queens and suddenly the potential of the black pieces was unleashed. There was a classic finish:

29…Nf3+! 30.Kf1 (30.Bxf3 Be4+! is also hopeless) 30…Bd3+! 31.Re2 Rh1+

Not the kind of thing you see happening to a Top 10 player all that often! Wesley So’s next engagement is to play a 4-game match against David Navara in Prague this weekend. 

David Navara and his team underperformed in the French Team Championship | photo: Teiki Arii, French Chess Federation

The Czech no. 1 also suffered in Round 10:

In a fascinating game Navara has allowed French IM Adrien Demuth’s bishops to run rampage. With mate-in-1 threatened Navara had nothing better than 35…Rxg8, but White’s extra piece was soon decisive.

Navara had also lost to an in-form Michal Krasenkow in the previous round. Krasenkow, who used to be the Polish no. 1, then went on to inflict the only defeat of the event on Poland’s great future hope, 17-year-old Jan-Krzysztof Duda. 

Only Russia's Vladislav Artemiev and China's Wei Yi are the same age or younger and higher rated than Duda | photo: French Chess Federation

After starting with a draw with Black against Wesley So, Duda played White in the next eight games, winning the first six of them. It was probably unwise to switch back to Black at the end, but he still claimed the Board 2 prize:

Board NameRatingFEDPointsGamesPerformance%
1GMGIRI Anish2776 810282880,00
2GMDUDA Jan-Krzysztof2610 7,510278275,00
3GMMISTA Aleksander2556 6,58280381,25
4GMRAGGER Markus2668 78281687,50
5GMAPICELLA Manuel2510 7,511260568,18
6GMTREGUBOV Pavel V.2571 7,59269583,33
7IMBERGEZ Luc2327 7,511244668,18
8IMSKRIPCHENKO Almira2421 910255190,00

All the best players on their boards | photo: French Chess Federation

French IM Paul Velten didn’t make that mistake, sticking to Black for all 11 games (!), even after he’d scored his first GM norm after 9 rounds. He ended up with 4 wins and 7 draws – Black is OK! 

The final round was something of an anti-climax, with the standings at the top already decided. The closest big encounter was Mulhouse-Clichy, where a quirk of the pairings saw Navara and So warm up for their match with a 27-move draw by repetition. 

Despite an awesome line-up Clichy had to settle for silver in 2015 | photo: French Chess Federation

Lower down the order Loek van Wely correctly accepted a pawn sacrifice by French GM Jean-Noel Riff (2488), but then lost the thread in time trouble:

26…Rxd3?! 27. cxd3 b4? 28.Nd5! Oops! The agony didn't last long:

32.Qxe5! was game over, but wins on the bottom three boards saw Clichy nevertheless score their tenth win in 11 matches.

Loek van Wely was still allowed to eat his dinner... | photo: French Chess Fedation

The real tension was in Metz – Vandoeuvre, where Metz needed a win to have a chance of avoiding relegation. They could only draw, and will join Grasse and Poitiers-Migné-Auxances in a lower league next season. The final standings were as follows:

Although Bois-Colombes had no player rated above 2624, team spirit (and 6 freely interchangeable players rated 2624-2572) enabled them to take home absolutely deserved bronze medals! | photo: French Chess Federation

So that's all for the French Team Championship, but there are only days to wait for an avalanche of chess action:

  • So-Navara
  • Leon Masters (Wei Yi, Vachier-Lagrave, Ponomariov, Anton)
  • Capablanca Memorial (Yu Yangyi, Nepomniachtchi, Andreikin, Eljanov, Dominguez, Bruzon)
  • Norway Chess (Carlsen, Caruana, Anand, Nakamura...)

See our 2015 Chess Calendar for full details.

See also:

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