Harikrishna wins French Top 16 for Asnières le Grand Échiquier
India no.4 and World no.32 Pentala Harikrishna won French Top 16 Club Championship for Asnières le Grand Échiquier. This was the first time in history the team became champion at this event. His teammates were - World Blitz 2021 champion, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Andrey Esipenko, Grigoriy Oparin, Jules Moussard, Yannick Pelletier, Matthieu Cornette, Pauline Guichard, Kirill Alekseenko, Jean-Marc Degraeve, Sergei Movsesian and Yosha Iglesias. Bischwiller also scored the same 29 points, however, Asnières le Grand Échiquier won the tournament due to better tie-breaks. They remained undefeated at this event and currently unbeaten for 62nd matches. C'Chartres secured their first-ever podium finish. All photos in this article are by Fédération Française des Echecs unless mentioned otherwise. Photo: Harikrishna's twitter
A unique format
The team championship was played with a team consisting of eight players each with one female player being mandatory to play in each round. The 'Top 16' in the tournament name gives away the fact that 16 best teams of France took part in this event. These teams are divided into two groups. In each group, they compete against each other in seven rounds. At the end of this phase, the first four of each group advance to the high pool, the remaining four teams are gathered in the lower pool. The eight teams of the high pool remain in the Top 16 and compete in four rounds for the title of champion of France Clubs. The eight teams of the lower pool also compete in four rounds with their survival in the Top 16 at stake, the first four will be maintained, the other four teams will be relegated to the lower division.
The presence of top players like Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA), Vasyl Ivanchuk (UKR), Veselin Topalov (BUL), Gata Kamsky (USA) certainly makes the field quite strong. Indian players who took part in this event are - Vidit Gujrathi, Pentala Harikrishna, Nihal Sarin, S L Narayanan, Leon Luke Mendonca, Surya Sekhar Ganguly and Visakh N R.
This is Harikrishna's first team triumph of 2023. It has been well established that Harikrishna is a strong team player as he has won team events in various countries all over the world.