WHERE, you might wonder, is the strongest and most prestigious open in France held? Its political and cultural capital, Paris?
Perhaps the “Capital of Lights”, Lyon? Or how about the sunnier climes of Marseille? The surprise answer is Cappelle-la-Grande, a small, unpretentious town of 9000 inhabitants on the outskirts of Dunkirk.
The reason Cappelle is famous chess-wise has much to do with the reddish hues of its politicians, and in particular its popular Communist mayor Roger Gouvart, brother of tournament organizer Michael Gouvart who, since 1985, has developed the event into one of the strongest and most popular of its kind in Europe.
It started small with just 68 players in its first year, but has grown to become one of the world’s largest opens, with no fewer than 564 players in this year’s 29th edition, including 70 or so grandmasters. And with so many jobbing grandmasters battling for the prizes, invariably Cappelle usually ends with a logjam at the top.
This year was no different, ending in an eight-way all-grandmaster tie for first place on 7/9, with Sanan Sjugirov (Russia) claiming the bragging rights to the title on tie-break.
Sjugirov, 20, comes from Elista, the capital of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, once ruled by FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. He’s regarded as one of the great hopes for the future of Russian Chess.
S Sjugirov - M Ulibin
29th Cappelle la Grande Open, (5)
1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nd2 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 Bd3 c5 6 c3 Nc6 7 Ngf3 Be7 8 0–0 a5 9 a4 cxd4 10 cxd4 Ndb8 11 Re1 Bd7 12 Nf1 Nb4 13 Bb1 b5 14 axb5 Bxb5 15 Ng3 h5 16 Ne2 N8c6 17 Nc3 Bc4 18 Be3 Rb8 19 b3 Ba6 20 Qd2 Na7 21 Bg5 Nbc6 22 Bxe7 Qxe7 23 Bc2 Nb5 24 Nxb5 Rxb5 25 h4 Rb4 26 Rec1 Kd7 27 Bd3 Bxd3 28 Qxd3 Rhb8 29 Rc3 R8b6 30 Rac1 Kc7 31 Ng5! f6 32 Qc2 Qd7 33 exf6 gxf6 34 Nh7 a4 35 Nxf6 axb3 36 Rxb3 Rxb3 37 Nxd7 Kxd7 38 Qh7+ Kd6 39 Qxh5 Nxd4 40 Qg4 Nc6 41 Qf4+ 1–0