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French chess players shine at Alekhine Memorial

Dhananjay Khadilkar
3 min

The world’s grandmasters were in Paris for the first round of the prestigious Alekhine Memorial chess tournament Thursday, where homegrown competitors startled and delighted audiences by overcoming international heavyweights.


Laurent Fressinet couldn’t hide his pleasure after the Round 5 match of the Alekhine Memorial chess tournament.

He hasn’t won the tournament. In fact, there are still four rounds left of the prestigious event that features the world’s top grandmasters. And yet, the 32-year-old Frenchman had every reason to be happy. For he had achieved something special on Thursday -- he had overwhelmed former world champion and current World No. 3 Vladimir Kramnik with some spectacular display of attacking chess, and that too with black pieces.

‘‘We will see how many points I score at the end. I take it match by match. However, I am incredibly happy that I managed to beat one of the best players in chess history -- in Paris,’’ Fressinet remarked after the match.

Fressinet couldn’t have asked for a better venue than the Tuileries gardens. Parisians, who haven’t witnessed such a high quality chess event in the city for some time, also appreciated Fressinet’s performance by filling the auditorium with a loud cheer.

Going into the fifth round, both Kramnik and Fressinet were tied on two points. While Fressinet had drawn all his four earlier matches, Kramnik had one win, one loss and two draws. With white pieces, the current world no. 3 was a clear favourite against Fressinet, who is ranked 36 in the world. Kramnik also has a reputation of being unbeatable with white pieces. Some four hours later, defying ranking and reputation, Fressinet overwhelmed his fancied opponent with some spectacular play. Speaking after the match, the French Grandmaster graciously said that Kramnik was probably a bit tired having just played the Candidates, the tournament which decides the world championship challenger.

‘‘I have been preparing quite a lot for Alekhine Memorial, which, for me, is the tournament of the year. For Vladimir, it was the Candidates,’’ he said.

The win was also special as it compensated for the disappointment of not winning his Round 4 match against Michael Adams the previous evening.

‘‘I was quite upset about my fourth round match. I was in a winning position but ultimately could only manage a draw,’’ Fressinet said.

It was not only Fressinet who kept the French flag flying high at the Tuileries gardens. His countryman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave beat Russia’s Peter Svidler and emerged as the sole leader of the tournament. Speaking after his match, Vachier-Lagrave said it was special to play in Paris in front of his countrymen. ‘‘I am happy leading the tournament mid way but there are still four rounds left. It’s going to be quite tough,’’ the 22-year-old, world no. 26 said.

Vachier-Lagrave leads the star studded field with 3.5 points while Fressinet is joint second with 3 points.

Paris based chess coach Xavier Parmentier remarked that Fressinet’s performance yesterday was exceptional ‘‘as it was very rare to beat Kramnik with black pieces. I am very happy for both him and Maxime who is now leading the tournament,’’ he said.

The tournament also features defending world champion Viswanathan Anand, world no 2 Levon Aronian, world championship runner up Boris Gelfand, Michael Adams, Ding Liren and Nikita Vitiugov.

The end of yesterday’s round concluded the Paris leg of the tournament. The remaining four rounds will be played in St Petersburg from April 28 to May 1.

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