Reports | August 20, 2011 20:56

French Championship under way, with Feller

The French Championship has reached six of its eleven rounds, and top GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is sharing the lead with Romanian-born GM Andrei Istratescu. One of the participants is Sebastien Feller, who again fully denied that he cheated in Khanty-Mansiysk last year.

The playing hall in the University of Caen | Photo © French Chess Federation

General info

The 86th French Championship is taking place August 14-25 in the University of Caen, a commune in northwestern France, located 15 km inland from the English Channel. This year Laurent Fressinet is defending his title against a strong field that includes Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Etienne Bacrot. The rate of play is 40 moves in 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes to finish the game, with 30 seconds increment per move, from move one.

Rounds 1-6

The tournament started with a last-minute cancellation of Vlad Tkachiev, reportedly due to health reasons. He was replaced by Hicham Hamdouchi, who earlier this year changed federations. Despite a less than perfect preparation for the tournament, the Moroccan-born grandmaster started with a nice victory against Jean-Pierre Le Roux. In these first few rounds, a high number of games ended in draws at an early stage. Somehow, in many games the players started to repeat moves at some point. We give one example, which is also theoretically interesting. Hamdouchi-Bauer Caen, 2011 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Bf5 6. Bd2 c6 7. Bc4 e6 8. Nd5 Qd8 9. Nxf6+ Qxf6 10. Qe2 Bg4 11. O-O-O Nd7 Always nice to see a grandmaster playing a system he wrote a book about. However, in his 2010 title for Quality Chess Play the Scandinavian, Christian Bauer advocates 11... Be7! 12. h4 Qf5 13. Qe3 Nd7 14. Be2 O-O-O 15. Ng5 Bxg5 16. hxg5 Bxe2 17. Qxe2 (Landa-Bauer, Bundesliga 2007) "and now 17...Qd5N would have secured a level game for Black." Did Hamdouchi have other thoughts? And did Bauer change his mind, or simply forget what he wrote? Anyway, after 12. d5 Bxf3 13. gxf3 cxd5 14. Bxd5 O-O-O Hamdouchi-Bauer where 15.Be4 looks slightly better for White, Hamdouchi suddenly forced a draw with 15. Bxb7+ Kxb7 16. Qe4+ Ka6 17. Qa4+ Kb7 18. Qe4+ Ka6 19. Qa4+ Kb7 1/2-1/2 After six rounds, and five to go, top GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is sharing the lead with Romanian-born GM Andrei Istratescu; both are on 4/6. The two 2700 players, Bacrot and the 'Frenchman with two names', still have to play against each other. Reigning champ Laurent Fressinet already met both, and drew twice.


One of the participants in this 86th Championship is Sebastien Feller. On July 3rd we reported that a Versailles court had suspended the French Chess Federation’s disciplinary sanctions against him and Arnaud Hauchard, due to a formal defect. The two grandmasters are allowed to play official chess games again, pending a ruling in a trial court on the merits of the case. Two days ago, Feller responded to questions from WhyChess. He again fully denied the accusations that he cheated at the Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad, September last year. To the question 'Has the [French Chess Federation] offered you a peaceful settlement?', Feller responded:

Given the fact that I’m innocent no settlement is possible until the Federation withdraws its false accusations.

Selection of games rounds 1-6


Game viewer by ChessTempo

French Championship 2011 | Round 6 Standings



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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Janis Nisii's picture

The questions were sent by email and he replied in the same way. Is that an interview? I don't know. What do you mean by interview?

cip's picture

Well, no harm done really. Nice, quick correction!

help's picture

They did prove it. He got off (temporarily for now) because of some legal technicalities.

Why he keeps denying I don't understand. (Self-delusion?) How does he explain the huge number of sms messages with moves sent during the game?

Janis Nisii's picture

It's funny how people from home decide on complex cases, without having read other than reports (all of them pro-FFE...).
I've been trying to understand this case for months, I've read everything that has been published in evey language, spoke at length to at least three people involved in the case and I still don't know what to think.
Anyway, the reply to your question is very simple: if he claims he's innocent, he is also implying the messages are not what they appear (for example they could have been sent to create an's worthy to remember that the phone was property of a person of the Federation.

Thomas's picture

Not that I am supporting Feller (or agree with Janis), but to me it's - from his point of view - perfectly understandable why he "keeps denying": His all-or-nothing strategy is to exhaust all legal means hoping to avoid _any_ formal punishment (another story is that he already lost players' contracts in team competitions). Any confession would hurt his case, as he could then only strive for a "peaceful settlement" - maybe some milder punishment, and even if he got away with "don't ever do it again!" admission of guilt might have consequences for his further career.
Incidentally, German cheater Natsidis chose to confess hoping for the best - hmm, as a matter of fact he hadn't any other choice ... .

If it was all fake, the French federation just hates him and wants to destroy the career of a young, promising and innocent player, and messages were "sent to create an evidence": Why did they first select him for the Olympic team?? If evidence could be fabricated, they could do the same for any other tournament - then it would be just Feller's private affair, while now the entire national team is affected. In other words: conspiracy theories don't make sense to me.

cip's picture

@Peter: "One of the participants is Sebastien Feller who, for the first time it seems, fully denied that he cheated in Khanty-Mansiysk last year."

For the first time, pff, how can you say that? Aren't you the same guy who wrote the following article here on ChessVibes?

Peter Doggers's picture

I stand corrected. First I had 'for the first time in an interview' (which was probably inaccurate as well), and later removed 'interview' because it's not clear whether it was an interview at all.

mishanp's picture

The ones over at ChessBase:

I wonder what the black market in chess clocks is like?! I read that at the British Championships someone stole a couple of laptops being used by the main web designer/guy doing the live video (I think).

Septimus's picture

What do Feller's peers think? Are they uncomfortable playing against him?

columbo's picture

maybe the opposite no ?

john's picture

doesn't seem to matter while he is playing games like that...

choufleur's picture

it seems this is the case. At least Fressinet complained about the strange atmosphere, in an interview (in French) to be found at

the title of the interview is (approximate translation)

"The competition is more delicate than usual"

Bartleby's picture

The message is: Do it, because you're up against others who do it. Do it, even if you might get caught it's a long shot for the federation to prove anything.

Thomas's picture

Which photos do you mean? BTW, the tournament (groups B, C and D) has another scandal, a rather innocent and unusual one: Today's round had to be postponed until tomorrow - because overnight 230 clocks were stolen from the venue.

mishanp's picture

Judging by some of the photos it seems as though the spectators are already acting as though they're banned from the playing hall :)

Thomas's picture

Thanks for sharing! To add on this: The interview (and the FFE website) mentions that live transmission was/is delayed by 30 minutes. But Fressinet would like even more drastic measures, namely to ban spectators from the playing hall - indeed a strange atmosphere, at least bordering on paranoia.

Janis Nisii's picture

To avoid misunderstandings, this is my deduction. I'm here in Caen and I've spoken to Feller, but he didn't go into details about the case because it's stil open. I will interview him tomorrow, live and without lawyers (or anyone else, for that matter). I have no idea if someone will publish my interview though... it's my own assignment :)

Arne Moll's picture

Janis, I'm sure I haven't read about the case as much as you, but think it would be very interesting to know whether Feller also denies that Marzolo in fact sent him these text messages (regardless of their contents, which are indeed private) on the days when he was playing. And if he does not deny that, then what is his explanation of why Marzolo sent them in the first place, knowing he was playing a game? To my knowledge nobody has asked him this crucial question, but I might be wrong. Even if he maintains the contents of the messages is not to be allowed in court, which I can understand, then surely the matter whether they were sent at all - and why - is something he could share?

Janis Nisii's picture

Arne, about the messages, his lawyer advised him not to say anything because there are things they only want to disclose in front of the civil court. It seemed to me he was barely understanding why and wanted to talk about it, but duly complied.
He said - though- that the receipt the FFE brought up was (only) about messages sent during the whole event (this means also when he didn't play or in times when there were no games) to his father's number. I asked him: did you have your own phone with you, and he said yes.
Is that enough of an answer? I don't know, but his reconstruction of the facts is quite astonishing. If half of what he said is true, well, at least many of his accusers (among the public) should give him the benefit of the doubt.
It will take many days to edit the interview, because it was conducted in French which isn't exactly my natural language :)

Arne Moll's picture

Thanks. Still, if the messages don't contain any evidence of cheating, as Feller seems to say, then why does the FFE want to make them public? After all that would only show how wrong they were? It doesn't make sense, unless they want to self-destruct. As said, I don't understand anything in this case.

Septimus's picture

Maybe the contents are links to p0rn sites?

Thierry's picture

Let justice do the job and keep doing what you are best at .
Do you know more about prosecutor's opinion and complainant’s credibility ?
This guy is just innocent till the cheating case has been proven .
And that's that !

cip's picture

If only public opinion would work that way... but chess gossip knows nothing of the Law and doesn't much care for it...
Humans are good at making opinions and that is what we do. In any case, I think you're right.

pat j's picture

feller looks like a 1600 player in that game...

Septimus's picture

22...Nc4? Why?

mishanp's picture

That move wasn't particularly bad - the position turned from slightly worse to completely lost with 19...Qxd1 (maybe Feller missed e.g. 22.Ne8?). You can play through all the games with Houdini analysis here:

Janis Nisii's picture

I can understand the thirst for truth we all have, and I'm aware that many comments are inspired by this, but it's a bit out of reality to try to find a logic in everything human beings do, especially when it comes about doing something illegal (it's the case here, even if we don't know which side did it).
History has proven that human beings don't act in the most logic or efficient way.
If we started with the logic arguments, there are many for each side of this story.
Whatever version is the real one, they both contain a great number of absurd things.
It goes without saying, though, that if they really wanted to ruin this guy's career, chosing such a big event, where all the world participated, would have had a huge resonance and involved every nation's chess community at any level.
You can't deny that the only thing that we _really_ know about FFE is that they made their BEST to make EVERYONE know about this fact and that they've spread lots of information about the case and against Feller long before it was, if not legal, at least advisable, also considering the guy was some 19 years old at the time.
They chose to have a public trial in the media, and this of course attracts many fans, because the public just loves it when they're told information in a way they can understand, but now this strategy is backfiring, because jurisprudence is a completely different story and when you have to prove something, you have to do it with more than 'I've run my engine and 90% of the moves were the first choice of the computer'. This claim, without any other serious variable taken into account, is just crap that only general public and not a single court would take into consideration. For example, without knowing exactly how it took to make a move, how the process to transmit the move to the player took, which computer were the cheaters running, you just don't know which move the computer is suggesting, also, you should of course not consider the theory moves and forced ones. As a matter of fact you also should take some decisions on which moves to consider or not, which is, of course, arbitrary. Well, I tried to do the same analysis, and not only I didn't have the same results as Fressinet, but I also don't agree with my own analysis (if I use different parameters, things changes).
But, as I said, this is not a simple case, and I will write an article about it, so I'll shut up from now on. :)

Calin Dragomirescu's picture

Good luck Istratescu ! He is a wonderful talent from Romania playing now for France. Hope you will become a 2700+ player soon.

Burnett's picture came up with a genius solution to the cheating dilemma.......Feller should reveal the sms messages. Strange that nobody thought of that, and especially Feller himself will be gratefull to chessbase. Thanks to chessbase he will soon be declared innocent.

Peter Doggers's picture

This 'genius' 'solution' was mentioned several times in the comments on this and other sites. Although I agree with Chessbase, being 'grateful' for them seems to stretch it a bit...

Burnett's picture

Ok, more rightfull claimers for that exceptional insight..........and I thinking maybe chessbase was taking us for a ride. ; )

Derek DeCrea's picture

Where there is smoke, there is fire...

Joseph's picture

I just witnessed Argentinian GM Pablo Lafuente cheating a 12-year old kid in a south African tournament. How low can you go..
Lafuente was coaching the opponent and the match was for the title of that division. Lafuente was allowed on the playing area as he was a 'visiting dignatary'. He used a similar system to Feller (Lafuente played in the 39th Olympiad as well). He counted off boards at empty tables and stood there facing each compass point to indicate the piece to move.
Many people were shocked if not outraged at the incident given it happened at a junior tournament and by a GM.

Ruben's picture

I played this games from these Feller from some tournements. All computermoves.
It was so very clear. And then years later he does it again. Many chess moves in his sms on his phone. Pfff. They must bann this "chess players" for live.
They harm the noble sport. Don t want to see his face anymore.
Can t they do something about this please?
It s such a shame.

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