French league 2011 from Mulhouse

The French league is one of the strongest in Europe and now known as the Top 12 after a new format was introduced this season. We will be following the final rounds daily as all dozen squads battle it out for the 2011 championship prize. At the lower end of the table, the bottom three will be relegated.

When I started playing in the French league in the mid-eighties, there were twelve teams in the top division and the games were played over six week-ends.

An expansion to sixteen teams, at the beginning of the nineties, had mixed success. The presence of additional teams opened up the event to more clubs, but fifteen games proved to be too expensive for the sponsors. So this was reduced to eleven games in the following manner. The sixteen teams were divided into two pools of eight, and after a first round-robin phase, the top four from each pool met to decide the championship and podium, whereas the bottom four from each pool battled it out to avoid relegation. These eleven matches were played at first over four week-ends, and then later, during three long week-ends (3, 4 and 4) for a total of 11 matches in a season.

And so it stayed for the best part of two decades, but the powers that be have pressed for a new formula of twelve teams playing a round-robin over eleven days. This reminds me of the Russian top division.

Only the observations of those present will give an indication of whether this dramatic change is an improvement.

There are certain advantages (reduced travel costs, organisation, marketing), but certain players (non-professionals, or perhaps semi-professionals, family members etc.) will struggle to get such a long stretch away from their normal activities.

All the games are played in one short period and in one location, whereas in the past the matches were played around the country. The organisation is thus simplified (one venue instead of 7 to 9) but less direct contact is made with players, fans and clubs in the regions. 

Another unforseen result is the limited geographical location of the teams in the top twelve. The south and west are absent with the exception of Marseille-Echecs. Traditional teams such as Cannes, Nice and Montpellier have dropped out of the top flight due, in large part, to financial difficulties in recent times.

The three promoted teams for next season's competition are from Deauville (North coast), Bischwiller (East in Alsace) and Grasse (Provence). So there will be another southern team in 2012!

There were once 16 teams of 9, then this was lightened to 8 players. Now we are down to 12 teams of eight, which has reduced the number of slots available for players wishing to play amongst the elite. However, as partial compensation, the equivalent of the second division now has 36 teams and the standard there is almost as high as in the first division from a generation ago!

Other national leagues have also changed their structure in order to find the 'ideal formula'.

In Spain, a ten-team round robin over nine days was dropped a few years back in favour of a twelve team two-phase event.

In Britain a twelve-team round robin (played over five week-ends) has been replaced by a sixteen team two-pool system (modelled on the former French system?), but one played over five week-ends.

So there is no consensus on the best system and it wouldn't surprise me if all these three countries changed their mind again sometime this decade!

The Germans have a large country, but have maintained a sixteen-team (fifteen player round robin) over eight week-ends for as long as I can remember. They at least know what they prefer!

As for now, the automobile museum in Mulhouse is the venue for the 2011 event.

Here are the leading players of the twelve teams. One particularity of the French league are certain rules concerning the nationality of the players.

One French female is obligatory, and the squads should have a majority of French nationals on the team sheet. So three 'non-French' maximum in any particular match.

Chalons-en-Champagne (North-East)
Player Country Rating World rank
Anish Giri NDL 2687 47
Loek Van Wely NDL 2675 68
Michal Krasenkow POL 2619  
Fernando Peralta ARG 2608  
Romain Edouard FRA 2602  
Alexei Barsov UZB 2521  


Lutèce Echecs (Paris)
Player Country Rating World rank
Alexander Moiseenko UKR 2679 57
Boris Avrukh ISR 2601  
Alberto David LUX 2593  
Yuri Solodovnichenko UKR 2574  
Marie Sebag FRA 2504 16 (women)

Evry Grande Roque (South of Paris)

Player Country Rating World rank
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2731 20
Michael Adams ENG 2726 22
Fabiano Caruana ITA 2714 28
Pavel Eljanov UKR 2712 30
Le Quang Liem VIE 2687 49
Sebastien Feller* FRA 2660 86
Sergey Fedorchuk UKR 2654 94
Vladislav Tkachiev FRA 2626  
Sophie Milliet FRA 2388 75 (women)

* Present, but unable to play as a result of a court ruling. He is alleged to be involved in a cheating ring with Cyril Marzolo (Marseille) and Arnaud Hauchard (also Evry), who have also been banned. A controversial issue that has split French Chess.

Guingamp (North-West in Brittany)

Player Country Rating World Rank
Alexander Mista POL 2569  
Matthieu CORNETTE FRA 2562  
Jean-Pierre LE ROUX FRA 2523  
Daniel Hausrath GER 2515  

Clichy (Paris Suburbs)

Player Country Rating World Rank
Dmitry Jakovenko RUS 2732 17
Laurent Fressinet FRA 2677 65
Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu ROM 2659 89
Pavel Tregubov FRA 2607  
Hicham Hamdouchi FRA 2593  
Yannick Pelletier SUI 2587  
Sebastien Mazé FRA 2571  
Almira Skripchenko FRA 2462 34 (women)

Rueil-Malmaison (Paris suburbs)

Player Country Rating World Rank
Simon Williams ENG 2520  

Noyon (North-East)

Player Country Rating World Rank
Ivan Sokolov NED 2645  
Jordi Magem Badels ESP 2569  
Alexander Kovchan UKR 2558  
Diego Adla ARG 2507  

Marseille Echecs (deep South)

Player Country Rating World Rank
Arkadij Naiditsch GER 2716 27
Etienne Bacrot FRA 2705 34
Andrei Istratescu FRA 2623  
Kamil Miton POL 2619  
Aleksander Delchev BUL 2619  
Yannick Gozzoli FRA 2530  

Strasbourg (East in Alsace)

Player Country Rating World Rank
Eduardas Rozentalis LTU 2573  
Anatoly Vaisser FRA 2533  
Tornike Sanikidze GEO 2524  

Vandoeuvre (East in Lorraine)

Player Country Rating World Rank
Georg Meier GER 2650 97
Christian Bauer FRA 2638  
Konstantin Landa RUS 2613  

Mulhouse (East in Alsace)

Player Country Rating World Rank
Radoslaw Wojtaszek POL 2721 24
Aleksey Dreev RUS 2703 38
David Navara CZE 2702 39
Andrei Sokolov FRA 2573  
Sebastian Bogner GER 2526  
Anthony Wirig FRA 2514  
Jean-Noel Riff FRA 2502  

Metz (East in Lorraine)

Player Country Rating World Rank
Alexander Riazantsev RUS 2679 59
Viorel Iordachescu MDA 2640  
Evgeny Postny ISR 2612  
Dmitri Svetushkin MDA 2561  

So 20 of the World's top hundred ranking list participated.

More details about the French league can be obtained from the Federation web-site:

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