Bouncing back in Kolkata


Three weeks after the disappointment of the World Cup, I had the opportunity to return to competition in an atypical event in Düsseldorf that didn’t offer much in terms of sporting challenges, despite a particularly strong field. I then followed this up with a very strong Grand Chess Tour-style Rapid and Blitz tournament in Kolkata.


This new team championship was somehow put together from scratch, but it was a nice occasion to imagine some original, custom made team line-ups. I played in Dusseldorf for a team of friends, the ASV Alpha Echecs Linz, a sort of mix between Etienne [Bacrot]’s friends and players from the Linz club in Austria. My teammates were Etienne, Sacha [Alexander Grischuk], Parham Maghsoodloo, Arkadij Naiditsch. Marc Llari, the U8 world champion, was on the under-2000 board, which wasn’t good news for our opponents 😊. Kateryna Lagno completed the team on the women’s board. On paper, we had a very strong line-up. The competition took place over 3 days, and though intense, with four Rapid games a day, there were lengths, because of the mere half-hour between rounds.

The organization on site was very good, and many top players were present. Including the WR team, set up expressly to win, with So, Abdusattorov, Nepomniachtchi, Duda, Praggnanandhaa, Keymer, Yifan Hou, Kosteniuk (no less!), and Rosenstein, their under-2000 player, who did very well at times.

We clearly wanted to win too, but let’s just say that for WR it was a bit different, it looked so important 😊. Unlike them, although we didn’t take the competition lightly, there was no specific preparation.

WR dominated the competition, so there’s nothing wrong with their victory; they simply had a tremendous team.

As for us, we lost five matches out of twelve, which is huge, even though four of them were lost by just half a point…

On a personal level, I think I had a decent result, but quite flat. In all the matches we lost, I drew, so my influence was limited. As far as the competition is concerned, I did my job, but nothing more.

The playing hall in Düsseldorf (photo: Fide).

Here are two interesting moments in my games:

Mvl – Anand 1/2

In this Queen and Rook endgame with an extra pawn on the same wing, I’ve already been spinning around for a while! Here, I avoided the Queen exchange 56.Qe4+ Qxe4 57.fxe4 because, despite real practical chances, I thought Anand would certainly save it. And I also felt he might crack under heavy pieces pressure, so I kept the Queens on with 56.Qe3, eying f4 to start creating threats on black’s King. And he did indeed crack! 56…Rc4? (to prevent 57.Qf4), but unfortunately I didn’t punish him because I missed the winning, yet not very difficult move, 57.Qb3! which pins the Rook and threatens 58.Qb1+. Black is unable to prevent this, for example 57…Rd4 58.Qc2+ Rd3 59.Re3 and wins. A wasted opportunity!

Eljanov – Mvl 0-1

It was the last round and, in this position, I was very happy to uncork the 16…Nxd4!? combination, which I thought would win. The antidote to this move was quite pretty: 17.Nxd4! (instead of the losing 17.Qxd4? Qxd4 18.Nxd4 Bxd2 played by Eljanov) 17…Rc3 18.Ra8+ (18.Qb1? Qxd4) 18…Ke7 19.Nc4! (the move you had to see!). If 19…dxc4? 20.Qe4 then Qh4 wins, and if 19…Rxd3? 20.Nxb6 Rxd4 21.Nxd7 Kxd7 22.Rc1! followed by 23.Bb5+ and 24.Rc7 mate or 24.Re8 mate! So I have to play 19…Rxc4 20.Qf3 Rg6 21.Bxc4 Qxd4 (21…dxc4? 22.Rd1 and white’s initiative is too strong) 22.Bd3 Qxe5 23.Bxg6 hxg6 and with three pawns for two exchanges, it’s a happy mess, instead of the losing position white got in the game.

In the end, the team only finished in sixth place, but at least we had a lot of fun, and that’s the main thing. It’s better to finish sixth if we are to win next time, than to finish third  twice! That’s my philosophy 😊.


After a few days in Paris, I was off to Kolkata for a visit to my 41st country, a long way behind globe-trotter-in-chief Nigel Short, who has passed the hundred mark 😊. The trip went very smoothly, with me arriving at around 3am local time, the day before the tournament.

Présentation des joueurs (Photo : Tata Steel India).
Introducing the players (Photo: Tata Steel India).

The selection of players was very interesting, very homogenous, with lots of youngsters who can all potentially become world champions later on! Although I think some names are more likely than others 😊. So I was expecting a very tough tournament and above all, with no easy games, no relaxing games, even if I did finally get one in the Rapid! [quick draw against Radjabov in the last round when the tournament win was already assured].

The Rapid games being quite intense, I did nothing but hotel/playing hall/hotel for three days: with just two training matches against Sacha in blitz, one before the start of the Rapid, and one before the start of the Blitz. In fact, he even said at the prize-giving ceremony that I’d been his « secret coach »! [Grischuk won the blitz tournament].

Here is a selection of my games:


Round 2: MVL – Praggnanadhaa, 1/2

After a fairly normal first game, there was a little slip-up in the opening against Praggnanadhaa; however, we were heading for a draw in the endgame until the next moment:

40.Kh3? (doing nothing was not a good idea, I had to counter-attack d6 with 40.Qe6!). With only the 10-second increment per move, none of us saw 40…b5! and either the b-pawn runs away, or 41.axb6 Qxb6, and it’s the a-pawn that escapes. It’s worth noting, however, that the machine’s +8 evaluation doesn’t take into account the practical difficulties that would have remained for the conversion! Instead, Prag repeated once with 40…Qg4+? 41.Kh2 Qb4 42.Kh3? before missing the target a second time! 42…Qxa5? 43.Bxd6 and he had to settle for a perpetual check as White had too much play with the Queens on and the passed d pawn.

Round 3: Vidit – MVL 0-1

The third game was a dangerous one! I was mostly expecting 1.d4, and 1.e4 surprised me a bit. I opted for a Najdorf, and as I was in experimentation mode in the openings (but less so than in the Blitz 😊), when I saw 6.Bg5, I chose to avoid the Poisoned Pawn variation. After 6…Nbd7 7.a3!?, I then recalled that Vidit had already played this slightly poisonous line in rapid games. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember anything on the board and had to improvise! In a situation that seemed unpleasant to me, I tried a tactical continuation that didn’t work at all, simply forgetting that my Queen would ultimately be trapped. So I had to sacrifice material, hang on as best I could, avoiding the forced lines he would inevitably have calculated, to finally arrive in the following miserable position, where I’m a full Rook down, with counterplay on its way to total extinction:

Just about every move wins, except the one Vidit chose with, admittedly, rather little time on the clock! 34.Kb2?? Rd3! and not only did it backfire, but to make matters worse for the Indian, I now even had a forced win after 35.Qe1 ! I had to play 35…Rd2! but no matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find it. Admittedly, I had all the ideas of the position in place, but what was just missing was the Queen’s retreat to d6; for instance 36.Qxd2 Qxd2 37.Ra3 Qd6 (other moves also win), but above all 36.Rc1 Qd6! (the only move this time!) 37.Ra4 Bxc3+! 38.Kb1 (38.Kxc3 Qd4 mate) 38…Rxc2 and wins. Instead, I played 35…Rxc3? 36.Qxc3 Bxc3+ 37.Kxc3 and the endgame is really messy. 37…Qxh4 and 38.Rg1 aren’t the best moves, the machine teaches us, but whatever! After 38…Bd5! Vidit didn’t see the very pretty geometric pattern 39.Bb3? (39.Bd3 and white stays in the game) 39…Qh8+! 40.Kc2 Qh2+ 41.Kc3 Qe5+ winning the Bishop after 42.Kc2 Qe2+ 43.Kc3 Qe3+.

A very happy turn of events that allowed me to end a complicated first day on a high note.

At the start of the second day, my opening choice (the Scotch) perfectly worked, even more so than I’d hoped…

Round 4: MVL – Keymer 1-0

Although this endgame from the Scotch isn’t particularly advantageous, it does allow white to continue posing problems, especially after my move 23.Ng1! which I was quite happy with. I was convinced that he wanted to play 21…Bg2, to prevent the Nh3-f4 manoeuver. But he missed what was indeed the best move. After 22.f4 Nc6 23.Bg4+ Kb8 24.Rd2?, black advantageously saves the piece with 24…Rhg8!, while 22.Bh5, leaving the passage to the Knight via e2, doesn’t particularly work either because of 24…f5, and if 25.Ne2?! Bf3! 26.Bxf3 Nxf3 and Black even gets the upper hand.

Keymer preferred 23…Rhg8 and let me maneuver my d5 Knight in order to exchange it for his Bishop, then we reached the following position:

Here, sacrificing the exchange with 31.Rdxd4! was a no-brainer for me. I don’t even call it a sacrifice, as I have all the open files and passed pawns. After 31…cxd4+ 32.Rxd4 c6 (32…Ra8 33.Rb4+) 33.dxc6+ Kxc6 34.Rxa4, I didn’t know if it was winning because I thought the position might have been objectively defensible, but in practice Black is certainly going through hell!

En route vers la victoire ! (Photo : Tata Steel India).
En route vers la victoire ! (Photo : Tata Steel India).

Round 6: MVL – Abdusattorov 1-0

After a bad opening from black, I got a clear advantage. I then tried to leave as little counter-play as possible. Nevertheless, I sensed that I could be missing more effective follow-ups at times, but without identifying them.

For example, here, the machine indicates that 28.Qe8! would have been clearly winning, unlike my choice of 28.Qc4, which it only gratifies with a slight plus, even though I was almost certain to have a decisive positional advantage there! But it’s interesting to note because even if I’d seen 28.Qe8, I know I wouldn’t have played it anyway! Indeed, I would have had to calculate the variations after 28…Kg7 29.Nxc5 or 28…Qxd3 29.Qxg6+ Bg7, which are not at all obvious to a human in a quick game.

After Keymer, Gukesh [solid draw with black] and Abdussatorov, I was playing round 7 against a fourth great world hope in a row, the Indian Erigaisi! [Maxime won with black].

Therefore, before the 8th round against Harikrishna, I was one point ahead of the field.

Round 8: Mvl – Harikrishna 1-0

I knew I was going to have a potentially complicated last game [Black against Radjabov], so I still wanted to play for the win, but without taking the risk of losing. Despite a quiet opening, I managed to put on quite a bit of pressure, especially as my teammate from Asnières hadn’t necessarily been very precise.

Here I already have a small advantage, but after 24…Be7, Black’s position remains solid. But he played 24…Re8?. There were too many pieces on the e-file, and I didn’t pay attention to the possibility of 25.f4! which wins outright! Black is completely powerless against the threat of 25.f5, because if 24…f5 25.Nxf5!. After 25.Nf5? Bf6 26.Ng3 h6? I again had the opportunity to play 27.f4!. I don’t know how I missed it, because when I opted for the Nf5-g3 maneuver, my idea was to play f4! Even though this time Black has 27…Bxd4+ in-between, he remains totally helpless after 28.Kh2, which threatens both 28.Bxg6 and 28.f5; and if 28…Nh4 29.f5! anyway, banking on the Queen’s being overloaded. Instead, I played 27.Nh5? Bh4 28.Qc2, after which he did a lot of thinking, and uncorked 28…Bf5?, a thunderbolt I hadn’t seen coming at all. I immediately had the feeling that it couldn’t work and quickly came up with 29.Rxe8+ Qxe8 30.Bxf5 Qe1+ 31.Kh2 Bxf2 32.Qb1! which completely refutes black’s line! I can’t say I was really shaky in the conversion, but I may have made the task a tiny bit too complicated for myself.

A quick draw to finish against Radjabov enabled me to win the tournament with 7/9 and a 1.5-point lead over him.

A morale-boosting victory…

Classement final du Tata Steel India Rapide (
Tata Steel India Rapid final standings (


The very next day, hostilities resumed with the two-day, 18-round Blitz tournament.

I got off to a very bad start [0/3, then 1/5], I was probably not fully awake! This bad start compromised my chances of winning the tournament, even if towards the end of the second day I began to dream of a remontada, before finishing in a bit of a shambles [finally 5th with 9.5/18]. But in any case, over these two days, I wasn’t really into it, which confirms my problem of irregularity in blitz. It was not an issue at all a few years ago! Now, however, I no longer have this problem in online blitz games – it’s the world upside down! I’ve probably become a stronger blitz player online than on the board 😊. So that’s a focus for the traditional end-of-year Blitz World Championship.

Finally, I must add that the level is much higher than it used to be. I can no longer be as dominant in blitz as I used to be, for example in 2015 at the World Championship, or in certain tournaments where I was performing at over 3000 Elo. It’s no longer possible, because the level of the others has risen, and also because my consistency is no longer the same. For example, here in Kolkata, I’ve made some blunders, some inexplicable things… It’s true that I’ve dared to experiment quite a bit in the openings, because I wanted to gain in instinct, in feeling… But some games make me doubt the relevance of this choice 😊.

Congratulations to Sasha [Grischuk], who played very well and dominated the blitz tournament.

Classement final du Tata Steel India Blitz (
Tata Steel India Blitz final standings (


Maxime’s games in Düsseldorf:

Maxime’s rapid games in Kolkata:

Maxime’s blitz games in Kolkata:

The Paris suburb’s town of Asnières is one of the epicenters of chess in France. It is home to the French Chess Federation, and its club is the reigning French champion. The municipality and its mayor, Manuel Aeschlimann, actively support the game of chess, including its educational aspects, through the town’s elementary schools.

To symbolize the city’s attachment to the King of Games, several chess champions have already given their names to streets or alleys there (rue Vladimir Kramnik, rue Alexandra Kosteniuk, allée Anatoli Vaisser).

On September 13, Asnières reached a new milestone with the inauguration of the « Parc Maxime Vachier-Lagrave »! Located at the heart of a new district, it offers 8,000 m² of green space, facing the Seine. In addition to children’s playground equipment and a « meadow area » soon to be operational, benches and chess tables line the edges, reminding us why the park bears its new name…

Mvl avec le maire d’Asnières, Manuel Aeschlimann (Photo : Mairie d’Asnières).
Mvl with the mayor of Asnières, Manuel Aeschlimann (Photo: Mairie d’Asnières).

Midnight express

Salle de jeu

I left Baku the night after my elimination from the World Cup in the round of 32 against Sindarov… A real disappointment, of course, which led me to take the first available flight to Paris.

In order to arrive in the best possible conditions, I left for Azerbaijan on July 31, for the start of the competition on August 2. I had prepared in advance for at least the first two rounds, against Dragnev or Kobo, then against Sindarov or Ragger.

I arrived rather rested and in good shape. I met up with all the French players who had been present in the preliminary round from which I had been exempted.

For me, the World Cup remains an exciting tournament. There are a lot more players than in the elite tournaments, which makes for a very special atmosphere.

The organization on site was fairly clean and well run. It’s clear that experience plays a part; as the editions go by, FIDE has taken the measure of the things to be done. Besides, Azerbaijan is used to organizing major sporting events.

There was just one point that surprised me, and that was the fact that the games were broadcast live. I asked FIDE about this and didn’t get an answer. Admittedly, the on-site anti-cheating measures were satisfactory. But even so, I can’t see what would have been the drawback of implementing a thirty-minute delay for security reasons…

A look back at the 6 games I played in Baku:

MVL – DRAGNEV, first leg 1/2

A complicated start against a player who is always well prepared. I really wasn’t expecting this variation of the Queens’s Gambit.

After the locking of the Queenside with 14…a4!, I was never able to make the e4-break work, and got absolutely nothing.

DRAGNEV – MVL, 2nd leg ½

After a first repetition with 17…Rd8 18.Bb6 Rd6 19.Bc5 and with a certain lead on the clock, I hesitated to refuse the draw, which could be done in two different ways. First with 19…Rf6, but I was a little afraid of 20.Re1 (but certainly not 20.Qxd5+ Be6) 20…Kg8 21.Bf1 threatening 22.Re3 which wins the Queen, while really attacking d5, and possibly e7. After 19…Rd8 20.Bb6, the other way to continue would have been to sacrifice the exchange with 20…Bf5!? 21.Bxd8 Rxd8, and the Bishop pair coupled with the central pawn duo offers obvious compensation.

In the end, I preferred to repeat moves and rely on tie-breaks, but perhaps that wasn’t the best decision objectively.

Début du tie-break contre Dragnev (Photo : Fide).
Beginning of the tie-break against Dragnev (Photo: Fide).

MVL – DRAGNEV, Tie-break (2) 1-0

After a first tie-break drawn without too much fuss with black, I got a good position out of the opening in the second:

Here, the young Austrian gave me the exchange in one move with 18…c6? 19.Bd6 cxd5 20.Bxf8 Ne6. But here, I probably wanted perfection too much, looking for the cleanest technical solution. Of course, I quickly rejected 21.Qxd5 Qxg4+ 22.Qg2 Qxg2+ 23.Kxg2 Kxf8, which seemed anything but easy to convert. My first thought was the obvious 21.Bxg7 dxc4 22.Bxf6 Qxf6, but I couldn’t find a decisive move as I saw black’s Knight popping up on d4 or f4. But just 23.Qd5! and I’ll win c4 or improve my Queen on e5. As a result, I finally opted for 21.Ne5? which seemed more secure, but didn’t achieve this goal at all after 21…Bxe5 22.Rxe5 Rxf8, and it becomes very hard to demonstrate an advantage, if any. I could have tried to keep control of the situation with 23.Rxd5 h5! (23…Qe4 24.f3 Qe3+ 25.Kh1 Nf4 26.Rd8 g6 didn’t reassure me either, but I missed the difficult 27.Qb3!, which must be enough since black’s Queen can’t come to e2 or f2 because of the exchange on f8 followed by 29.Qb4+ which wins the Nf4!) 24.Rxh5 Qe4 25.f3 Qe3+ 26.Rh1, but after 26…Nf4, which wins a crucial tempo on the Rook, the activity of the Queen/Knight pair makes up for the material deficit.

So I decided to make the best of a worsening situation with 23.Qf3 d4 24.Qe4, but if I restricted the activity of the black pieces, it was by leaving their d-pawn alive!

Fortunately, Dragnev got a little carried away and instead of continuing to defend with a move like 29…Ne6, he thought he could afford 29…d3?, falling into a nice trap; 30.Re8! and he realized that 30…d2? was not possible because of 31.R1e7!; facing the threat of 32.Qxf7+, black has no choice but to give up his d-pawn with 31…d1=Q+. 30…Kg7 31.g5! didn’t really appeal either, so he opted for 30…Ne6, but after 31.Rxf8+ Nxf8 32.Td1, white pockets the d-pawn, and I didn’t spoil the technical conversion this time 😊.

Jules et Maxime sortiront tous les deux au 3e tour… (Photo : Fide).
Jules and Maxime will both be knocked out after round 3 (Photo: Fide).

SINDAROV – MVL, first leg ½

After a rather well-controlled game, I reached the following position with black:

We were both starting to run out of time, and unfortunately I couldn’t make 34…Bf8! work, which was indeed the right move. After 35.Rxb7? (white should then have settled for a move like 35.Kf1 or 35.Rd5, but Black’s advantage is then undeniable) 35…d3! 36.Ne3 (36.Rxd7 dxc2 37.Rc3 Ra1+ -+), there’s one move I missed that really hurts, 36…Bh6!.

So I resigned myself to protecting b7 with 34…Ra7?, but Sindarov offered me a new opportunity with 35.Ra3? (the Rook exchange favors Black by freeing his d-pawn). Unfortunately, I didn’t believe in the strength of the d-pawn and played 35…Bf8? while offering a draw, which was immediately accepted; after 36.Rxa7 Nxa7 37.Rd5, white effectively recovers his pawn with equality.

Perhaps with a little more time, I’d have paid more attention to 35…Rxa3 36.Nxa3 d3!. It looks like the d-pawn is going to be surrounded, the white knight is coming to c4 and black isn’t going to get anything good out of this push, but on closer inspection this isn’t the case and white is really suffering. 37.Rd5? Nb4! loses immediately. 37.Nc4 Bc3! also raises many questions. 37.Kf1 or 37.Rb1 are undoubtedly better, but White will have to suffer to earn his half-point.

Another « half-opportunity » missed with black, which obviously leaves some regrets, especially given the scenario of the second game…

MVL – SINDAROV, second leg 0-1

I won’t go into the details of this wild Arkhangelsk variation, let’s just say that Sindarov and I both had this position, which is not theoretical, in our files. I didn’t remember the best move 19.Qf5! which is very difficult to find on the board. It’s actually a prophylactic move, with white anticipating …Re8, preparing to position the Queen on f3 or d3 if it’s chased, and above all, to respond to 19…c5 with 20.d5.

After much thought, I chose the more human approach 19.Nd2 c5 20.Nf3 cxd4 (the machine teaches us that 20…Re8! first is more accurate) 21.cxd4 Re8. Here, 22.Qf5 was too tempting, the threat 23.Ng5 seemed too strong for black to have the courage to take on d4. Now after the game, we know objectively that 22.Qa5! was the best move, but it was anything but obvious in the course of it. After a prolonged thought, Sindarov dared 22…Bxd4! 23.Ng5 h6, and after 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Nf3 Qb6, we reached the following decisive position:

I thought about it for almost a quarter of an hour. Of course, I immediately saw that after 26.Nxd4, black had the intermezzo 26…Rxa6. I then analyzed 26.Bd2 Bxb2 27.Rb1 Qxa6+ 28.Kg1 and realized that the position had to be equal or balanced after, for example, 28…Rab8 29.Bb4+! Rxb4 30.Qh8+ Ke7 31.Re1+ Qe6 32.Rxe6+ fxe6 33.Qh7, as after 28…Qa3 29.Nh4, as the threat 30.Nf5 should recover the exchabge. Unfortunately, I was then attracted by a « brilliant » idea that seemed to lead to a clearer draw… 26.Nxd4? Rxa6 27.g3!? (the pseudo-point that gives everything with check, but in our noble game, the capture is not obligatory 😊). If black cashes in with 27…Rxa1? 28.Nf5! Rxc1+? (28…Qb5+ and it’s still a draw after 29.Kg2 Qxf5 30.Qxf5 Rxc1 31.Qh7 f6), he’ll have to lower their flag after 29.Kg2 Qb7+ (the only way to avoid mate) 30.Kh3 f6 31.Qh8+ Kf7 32.Qxg7+ Ke6 33.Qxb7 Kxf5 34.g4+ Ke5 35.f4+ and 36.Qxe6. If after 27.g3!?, black opts for 27…Qxd4, then 28.Rxa6 Qc4+ 29.Kg2 Qxa6 30.Qh8+ Ke7 31.Qxg7 with a drawn endgame.

Unfortunately, the quiet 27…Qb7! thenappeared on the board, a little intermediate move that had completely escaped my attention! A cold shower that quickly made me realize that the World Cup was over for me…

The game ended with 28.Qh8+ Ke7 29.Qxg7 (29.Qxe8+ Kxe8 30.Rxa6 Qxa6+ 31.Kg2 Qd3 32.Be3 offered no fortress prospects; black will push his Kingside pawns to destabilize white’s construction) 29…Rxa1 30.Nf5+ Ke6 31.Nd4+ Kd5 and white can resign.

Le tombeur de Maxime en pleine concentration avant la partie décisive (Photo : Fide).
Maxime’s winner in full concentration mode before the decisive game (Photo: Fide).

Obviously, the outcome of the World Cup wasn’t what I’d expected, given that this tournament was really my big goal for the year. So it’s a disappointment in terms of the result, but much less so in terms of the content. I think I need to build on the momentum of this World Cup. Of course, there are still a few details to iron out, but my level of play is clearly higher than what I’ve been able to show over the past year.

I’ll be playing in a few Rapid and online tournaments at the end of August and throughout September, before returning to the classical games at the European Club Cup, which takes place in Albania, October 1-7. My club Asnières will clearly be aiming for the podium, so i twill be an important challenge, as well as excellent preparation for the Grand Swiss (October 25 – November 5), my last chance to qualify for the 2024 Candidates. In any case, I intend to arrive on the Isle of Man with ambition and well-prepared…

Maxime’s games:

Just before leaving for Baku, Maxime achieved a feat that only Wesley So and Nakamura had achieved before him: winning both editions of the famous weekly « Titled Tuesday » on Every Tuesday, two successive blitz tournaments bring together an average of around 500 titled players. On July 25, Maxime won both, with scores of 9.5/11 and 10/11. Among the participants were Carlsen, Nakamura, Caruana, So, Duda, Kramnik, Kamsky, Fedoseev etc., and a host of GMs. The only thing missing for Maxime was the icing on the cake: after securing the second tournament win with 10/10, Maxime conceded his only loss of the day to Nakamura, while trying to achieve 11/11 perfection!

Team time

La cathédale de Chartres

The month of June was punctuated by two major team competitions, the first of which was the French Championship, held once again in a beautiful and spacious room of Chartres town hall, the city that some claim boasts the most beautiful cathedral in the world…

Top 16 in Chartres

I joined my Asnières team for the third-round derby match against Clichy, which we unfortunately lost. On my board, I drew with white against Amin Bassem, in a Spanish opening where I failed to capitalize on the advantage I’d gained in the opening. A result that immediately put us in a bit of a bind, but we made up for it afterwards 😊.

On a personal level, I’ve made a lot of draws. In fact, I’ve done nothing but draws! (6, including 4 with black).

An ultimate draw against an old friend… (Photo : Ffe).

In particular, there was this game against Andrei Sokolov, which lasted 6 hours (Mulhouse-Asnières, Round 4). In this inferior endgame, he showed great defensive resources, as few people would have held this position; in any case, at his Elo (2464), hardly anyone! And even at higher Elos, I find it hard to believe that so many would have defended this endgame. He did it, reminding us of his status as a former Candidates finalist, and all credit to him for that!


Here, I considered that 47…Rfd3 or 47…Rad3 offered little winning chances, so I decided to give up the d6 pawn with 47…Kxg5. Andrei told me after the game that he thought putting a Rook on d3 would have given better chances; for my part, I felt that exchanging my d6-pawn for his two g-pawns offered the best practical prospects. After 48.Rxd6 Kxg4, he began to find all the good moves, starting with 49.Kg2!.Any other move would have lost, e.g. 49.Rxc6? Ra1+ 50.Kg2 Rg3+ 51.Kh2 Rh3+ 52.Kg2 Rah1! with a nice mating net; or 49.Rxf3? Kxf3 50.Rf6+ Kxe4 51.Rxf7 Rf3+! and the pawn endgame is winning. After 49…Rg3+ 50.Kh2 Rh3+ 51.Kg2 Rag3+ 52.Kf1 Rh1+ 53.Ke2 Ra3, he still had to find 54.Rd3! (54.Rxc6? Ra2+ 55.Ke3 Rh3+ is trivial, but the refutation of the natural 54.Rd2? is less so: 54…Kg3! and White is in zugzwang. If the Rf2 moves, it’s 55…Rh2+; if the Rd2 moves on its column, it’s the same in reverse [55…Ra2+]; and if 55.Rb2 Rh4! picks up the e-pawn with interest, ditto after 55.e5 Rh5) 54…Raa1, and only now 55.Rd2!, which is again an only move (55.Rg2+? Kf4 56.Rf2+ Ke5! and the King’s return in the center is decisive, avoiding 56…Kxe4?? 57.Re3+ Kd4 58.Rf4 mate!). I still continued 55…Rhe1+ 56.Kd3 Ra3+ 57.Kc2 Ra7 58.Kd3 Rg1, but after 59.e5 and a few precise last moves, Andrei pocketed his deserved half-point!

Analysing with the 1987 Candidates finalist… (Photo : Ffe).

A few days later, I returned to Chartres to play in the « Poule Haute » (upper half of the championship), with only decisive matches on the program, notably the one against multiple title-holder Bischwiller. I have to admit that my games in this top group were not very exciting. I had black three times and white once.

With black, I was clearly neutralized in all three games. And with white against Vidit, I couldn’t make anything of my tiny advantage.

But the most important thing is that, after two very lively matches at the end of the top group, against Chartres and Bischwiller, we finally clinched the championship title! A big bravo to the whole team, to the captain, and to the ever-active support of the town of Asnières!

Icing on the cake, despite my absence due to the Global Chess League in Dubai (see below), Asnières completed the double by winning the French Cup in early July 😊.

L'équipe d'Asnières
Asnières champion de France 2023 (Photo : Ffe).

Global Chess League in Dubaï

Global Chess League (GCL). This is a new and completely different event from what we’re used to. Under the aegis of Indian giant Tech Mahindra and FIDE, this new League sees teams representing franchises compete in Rapid games. For this first edition, 6 teams were formed, with drafted players, a bit like in the NBA. The other special features were as follows: each team of 6 is made up of an Icon player, 2 super-GM’s, 2 women and a junior. In each match, one team has the same color on all boards. For scoring purposes, victory is valued at 3 points (as in soccer, for example), and a win with black even awards a bonus point. Finally, it’s a round-robin championship system, with the top two teams contesting a grand final on the last day.

With the participation of several Top 10 players (Carlsen, Nepo, Anand, Rapport), this first edition was a real eye-catcher. For my part, I was the Icon player on the Mumba Masters team, named after Mumbaï’s Indian company U Sports.

What I really liked was being able to build up a good team atmosphere, which was the case. Of course I knew Sasha (Grischuk), but I was less familiar with our Indian friends Vidit, and the women Dronavili and Koneru. Uzbek junior Sindarov completed the picture. Around the captain, GM Narayanan, who played his role well, we managed to create excellent relationships. It’s worth noting that a number of U Sports staff members were also on hand to make life easier and boost cohesion.

With the participation of several Top 10 players (Carlsen, Nepo, Anand, Rapport), this first edition was a real eye-catcher. For my part, I was the Icon player on the Mumba Masters team, named after Mumbaï’s Indian company U Sports.

What I really liked was being able to build up a good team atmosphere, which was the case. Of course I knew Sasha (Grischuk), but I was less familiar with our Indian friends Vidit, and the women Dronavili and Koneru. Uzbek junior Sindarov completed the picture. Around the captain, GM Narayanan, who played his role well, we managed to create excellent relationships. It’s worth noting that a number of U Sports staff members were also on hand to make life easier and boost cohesion.

L'équipe Mumba Masters
Mumba Masters team presentation (Photo : GCL).

As far as the matches were concerned, it was rather strange because we played an average of one game a day, which broke the rhythm a little. As a result, we had quite a lot of free time for preparations, even if, for the first half of the tournament, we didn’t know the colors until 30 minutes before the game. All in all, this new competition turned out to be quite enjoyable, although quite nerve-wracking on the last two days, when we qualified for the final by the skin of our teeth, before going on to play a Homeric tie-break in the final!

Before this final sprint, I’d played quite a few interesting games, even if most of them ended in draws; a lot of mutual neutralization, both with white and black.

Here is an overview of my two only decisive games:


Against Vishy, I used the Petroff and remained quite far in my home preparation. I knew there were positions in this line where I shouldn’t be afraid to « throwing wood ». I felt like I was growing wings. I knew it was a bit optimistic, but that it could also go well, which was almost the case…

Here, Vishy saw at the last moment that after 24.Nh5? there’s 24…g4! which hurts a lot, among other things because of the X-ray between the Rc5 and the Nh5. As a result, he played 24.Bxd4 and that’s when I should have taken the Knight wisely and obtained an unclear position after 24…fxg3 25.Bxc5 bxc5 26.Qxc5 gxh2+ 27.Kxh2 Rf7; it’s very hot because I have the 2 Bishops. Admittedly, Bh4 is locked in, but I can always play …g4 if I need to, and on his side, he can’t penetrate on the e-file.

Instead, I got carried away and started calculating like a madman 24…a5? 25.Qb3+ Bd5 26.c4 Bxc4 (I had also considered 26…Bxf3 27.Bxc5 Bxe2, but after 28.Bxf8 [28.Qxb6 should work too], I don’t have a shadow of a compensation 😊) 27.Qc3 Rd5, but I forgot 28.Bf6! which, by the way, wasn’t the only good move, and then it gets really bad. 28…fxg3 29.Re7 Qd6 30.Rg7+ Kh8 31.Rf7+ Kg8 and further proof of my blindness at this point, I thought Vishy was going to take the draw, but he actually repeated once, before delivering the lethal 32.Be7! which put an end to the debate!

It was a complicated game where I felt I could get through, which is why I took maximum risks. Well, it didn’t work out, but the team won the match!


En route to victory! (Photo : GCL).

In the next match against Magnus, I faced a Berlin wall in which I managed to get some pressure going into the endgame. I was happy, but Magnus more or less neutralized me in the next phase, albeit at the cost of a lot of time.

All he had to do was find 34…c5! 35.bxc5 Rc6 (or even 35…Re6), and in both cases it’s a draw. On the other hand, after his mistake 34…Rd6? 35.Re3 Rd2? (better to admit you’ve gone wrong and defend with 35…Rc6 36.Kxh4 Rc4) 36.Rxc3 Rxf2 37.Kxh4, there are too many weaknesses (in fact, all his pawns!) and it’s become untenable in practice, especially with so little time on the clock.

At the end of the return phase, we secured our place in the final by crushing the Magnus team in the last round (4 black wins and 2 draws!).


Here I committed what Magnus would later call a « lucky blunder ». My first idea was the natural 33…Rd7 but then I saw that 33…Rd6 seemed possible, with the additional possibility of transferring the Rook to f6. But just when I played 33…Rd6? I realized that there was 34.Ne2, with the black Queen overloaded. Fortunately, I managed to keep the poker face on while he was thinking! Though he won the exchange after 34…Qe4 35.Qxd6 Qxe2, Magnus had a very hard move to find to maintain the advantage. 36.Rf1! would have put me in difficulty, because after 36…Bd3 (36…Qxb2 37.Qc5! is overpowering) 37.Ra1 Qxb2 38.Re1 Qd4 39.Qe7 c3 (39…Qxd5 40.Re5!) 40.d6 with the same position as in the game, except that the Bishop has been drawn to d3 and therefore no longer controls the d7 square! White wins. A very difficult trick to envisage in a Rapid game, and Magnus continued more naturally with the immediate 36.Ra1? Qxb2 37.Re1 Qd4 38.Qe7 c3 40.d6, but with the Bishop on f5, I had time to play 40…Kg6! and force a draw after 40.Qf8 c2 41.Qg8+ Qg7 42.Qe8 Qc3 43.Qg8+ Kh6 44.Qf8+ Kg6.

Just before the final… (Photo : GCL).

The real highlight of the Global Chess League was undoubtedly the final between my Mumba Masters team and the Triveni Continentals led by Aronian. Having won a game each in both rapid and blitz, we had to settle the tie in sudden death, another new feature of the League, which is a bit like a soccer penalty shoot-out. One of the 6 chessboards is drawn at random, and the winner of the blitz wins. In the event of a draw, another is drawn, and so on… It took 4 sudden-death blitz games to name a winner! And it was on the junior chessboard that everything was finally decided. Our team-mate Sindarov had already beaten Norway’s Bjerre four times in the tournament (!), and he was still pushing on with pawn up in the endgame when he completely forgot a mate in 1 move, bringing this beautiful new competition to a particularly cruel close!

The historic moment when Bjerre delivers mate and gives his team the final victory (Photo : GCL).

This unprecedented scenario was certainly very exciting for the spectators, but it was also very stressful to play, and even worse to watch in the sudden death session! At the start of this one, I preferred not to be drawn, but after the second game (a draw between Grischuk and Yu Yangyi), I felt it might be better to go up on stage and have a go at Aronian, but fate didn’t give me the chance.

Of course there are regrets, but after a while it’s all too quick, there’s too much tension, and it’s all down to nothing…

Enjoy your summer of chess!

As for me, the next event will be the World Cup in Baku, where I’ll start in the round-of-64 on August 2, against the winner of the preliminary round match between Austria’s Dragnev (2576) and Israel’s Kobo (2548).

Maxime’s games :

Maxime’s games in French Team Championship:

Maxime’s games in Berlin :

Maxime’s games in Dubaï :

Between the two team competitions covered in this article, Maxime spent a week in Berlin, playing the European leg of the Armageddon circuit. 8 players, a single-elimination blitz format, with the fashionable formula of a main bracket and a losers’ bracket, ensuring that no-one is eliminated without losing 2 matches.

A special feature of this Armageddon is that all games are played in the Berlin studio and filmed for TV.

Maxime finished third in the tournament, behind Rapport and Duda, who took the two qualifying spots for the Grand Final in September.

Back in business

Retour aux affaires


For me, the start of the Grand Chess Tour 2023 in Bucharest meant a return to classical chess tournaments, after a long hiatus since the Sinquefield Cup in September 2022 and the installation of my new staff immediately afterwards.

The draw designated me as the first opponent of the new world champion, Ding Liren! Tired from his match, the Chinese didn’t try much with white and I easily drew.

In my four white games, I produced a few good ideas, notably in the Scotch against Giri and against Rapport’s Winawer, although in the end both were drawn. On the other hand, I was effectively neutralized by So and Deac in the London and the Italian. So the balance sheet with white is relatively mixed, although I did test a few new weapons.

With black, I also scored 50% (+1, -1, =3) which is rather satisfying, even if I was clearly dominated in the opening of both decisive games, against Caruana and Nepo, which I will come back to here:

Vue de la scène à Bucarest (Photo GCT).
A view of the stage in Bucharest (Photo GCT).rest (Photo GCT).



I played 15…Nh5? not because I’d forgotten that the e7 pawn was hanging, as some have written, but because after 16.Bxe7 Nf4 17.g3 Nbd3, white had the fearsome 18.Ng5! Qxd1 19.Raxd1 which I had overlooked, and no tactical continuation really works for black. So I fell back on 17…Rfe8 18.Bxd6 Nfd3 but after 19.Re3 Nxb2 20.Qb3! N2d3 21.e5! I could never justify the material deficit.

ROUND 5 : NEPO – MVL 0-1

A game that got off to a bad start, as Ian used the Alapin to get a Queenless middlegame that looked harmless, but isn’t: surely the product of very good preparation for his World Championship match. Doubtless perturbed by his loss the day before against Caruana, Ian continued in his style, playing intuitive moves very quickly, and he did indeed manage to cause me some serious problems. But it was once he had me almost on the ropes that he began to falter…

White is in total control, but still needs to find a way forward. I think 32.Rd4! was the most natural, preventing any counterplay and leaving the passage to b3 for white’s King, which will bring new opportunities. But by continuing to play fast to put pressure on the clock, Ian chose the imprecise 32.g4? Rh8 33.Kg3 Rcc8! and let me back in. He continued in this vein and forgot important details, particularly 34.c4 Rh7 35.Bd6 Nd7! At this point, I realized that it could start to get very tricky for him if I doubled on the h-file and played …f6 and then …Ne5, forcing Bxe5 fxe5, after which my other Knight would relive on c5. And that’s what happened in the game! Even if I wasn’t completely sure to be winning after move 40, I knew that my position had become quite easy to play, and really hard for him to defend!

The final combination: 48…Rxf1+! (you had to calculate this line correctly because it’s the only move that wins) 49.Kxf1 Rh1+ 50.Kf2 Ne4+ 51.Kxf3 Nxd2+ 52.Ke3 Nxb3 53.b6 Rh3+! 54.Kf2 (54.Ke4 Kf6! 55.b7 Nd2+ 56.Kd4 Rb3 -+) 54…Rh8 with a trivial win.

A somewhat unexpected victory, but one that boosted my morale ahead of the rest day.

Duel franco-français lors de la dernière ronde (Photo GCT).
Franco-French duel in the final round (Photo GCT).

I can’t ignore my game against Rapport that followed the rest day, because it was really quite spectacular!


It was a typical French Winawer where Black closed the center with …c4. I thought I was in control and had quite a few possibilities on the Kingside, but it wasn’t at all that clear. I have to admit that Richard is an expert in this type of structure in the French, and he knew how to find the right piece arrangements.

My basic plan was to bring my Knight back to the ideal e3 square, before invading the Kingside with Qg1-g7; that’s why I took back on g1 with the Knight.

In fact, the more natural 33.Qxg1 led to crazy complications, but didn’t change the evaluation: 33…Nxa3 34.Bxa3 Qxa3 35.Qg7 b5; here, the immediate and natural 36.Qxh6 had the advantage of forcing Black to find a difficult « only move » after 36…b4 37.Qg7 [37.Qf8 gave White the opportunity to lose after the amusing 37…b3 38.h6? b2 39.h7 Ng6! 40.Qxa3 b1=N+] 37…b3 38.h6 b2 39.h7 b1=Q 40.h8=Q

40…Qaa1!; the computer is formal, any other move loses, e.g. 40…Qab2? 41.Qxe7 and despite taking c2 with check, both black Queens can’t even give perpetual, or 40…Qb8? 41.Qxb8+ Kxb8 42.Qf8+ and black will never move again the Knight, nor the Queen! Instead of 36.Qxh6, white also had the possibility of 36.Ke3!! a rather incredible move, the loss of a tempo being aimed at preventing the push of the fastest b-pawn; after 36…Nc6 37.Qxh6 a4 (but not 37…b4? 38.Qf8! gaining a crucial tempo) 38.Qg7 Qe7 and black seems to hold.

But after 33.Nxg1 Be8 34.Nh3 Kd7 35.Nf2 Bf7, I realized that if 36.Nd1, Black would have covered g7 with 36…Ke8 37.Ne3 Kf8, and if necessary covered f6 in case of 38.Qe1 Nc7! 39.Qh4 Ne8. So I immediately went back to the 36.Qg1 plan, giving a3 against g7, and we arrived at this crazy position, although fairly typical of passed pawn races with heavy pieces:

42.cxb3 (42.h6 wasn’t enough either: 42…bxc2 43.Kxc2 Qa2+ 44.Nb2 a4 45.Kc1!? Qa1+ [45…a3? 46.Na4] 46.Kc2 =) 42…Qa2+ (42…cxb3 also worked: 43.Be2 b2 44.Bd3 [especially not 44.Kc2?? Qb3+! 45.Kxb3 b1=Q+ 46.Ka3 a4! -+] 44…Qb3 45.h6 b1=Q 46.Bxb1 Qxb1 47.h7 Bh5 48.Ne3! =) 42…Qa2+ 43.Ke1 Qh2 44.bxc4 Qxf4 45.Be2 Qg3+ 46.Kd2 Qg5+ 47.Ke1 Qg3+ and draw.

In the end, I think we produced a very good game, extremely tense from start to finish.

The Bucharest result is mixed, with a 50% score and a lot of draws, but it’s well above what I did in 2022, even if it’s obviously still below some of the standards I had a few years earlier.

In any case, for me it was a sort of « return to business », rather satisfying if you look at it as an Elite tournament in preparation for the major event of the season, which will be the August World Cup in Baku.


Barely 3 days after my return from Bucharest, I was back on the road for the next Grand Chess Tour event in Warsaw.


From the outset, a theoretical discussion on one of the most complex lines in the London!

Here I hesitated for a long time between 13.Nxa8 and 13.Nxe5. 13.Nxa8 exf4 14.Ng5 seemed like a complete tactical mess to me, and I went for 13.Nxe5, which I thought was superior. The problem was that I totally missed the King’s journey to b6 by 13…Kxc7! 14.Nxf7+ Kb6 15.Nxh8 d5 and with the King safe and the pieces coming out, Black has the advantage. I thought Lev wanted 13…Nxe5? 14.Bxe5 d6 15.Nxa8 dxe5 16.dxe5 which seemed to work in my favor. In the game, I painfully managed to restore quality and stabilize the position after 16.Bd3 Be6 17.Bxh7 followed by 18.Ng6.

Maxime et les deux meilleurs joueurs de l’histoire… (Photo GCT).
Maxime and the two best chess players in history… (Photo GCT).


A spectacular game for his endgame. With black, I think I’ve properly handled the trendy new opening employed by World #1, the London. Despite the long maneuvers he’s known for, Carlsen never managed to destabilize my position, until a stupid little miscalculation got me into trouble.

Here, all I had to do was keep waiting with 51…Kd6 and if ever white trades on b6, to recapture with the pawn; white would have had no way of increasing the pressure. Unfortunately, I thought he wouldn’t regain the a5 pawn after 51…bxa5?! 52.Na6+ Kd6 53.Nc5 Nb6, completely forgetting the fork 54.Nb7+ Kc7 55.Nxa5. Even if this doesn’t change the assessment, as the position is still equal, White gains access to the c5-square and makes my defense much more difficult.

A few moves later, I decided to force events with 70…f3!? (the machine indicates that 70…Bd7 is also completely equal, but this was impossible to guess on the board) 71.dxe6 fxg2 72.Ne2 Kd8. I’d anticipated that we’d end up in the famous 2 Knights vs. pawn endgame, in a version most likely winning for white, but probably not in less than 50 moves! What’s more, I knew the extreme complexity of the Knight maneuvers in this endgame, and felt that even for Carlsen, the task would be impossible to achieve in practice 😊. I’d like to take this opportunity to give a nod to the great French endgame specialist IM Alain Villeneuve, who was my theoretical reference for this ending, as for many others!

It was Troitzki who cleared up the whole theory of this endgame, and as early as 1906, he laid down the following rule: all positions with a Rook pawn blocked on the fourth rank by an unmoveable Knight are won, whatever the position of the black’s King. This is the case here, even if the tablebases indicate that it takes 56 moves on perfect play to force the h-pawn to advance! 80…Kd6 81.Nf3 Ke6 82.Kc5 Kd7 83.Kd5 Kc7 84.Ne5 Kb6?! (84…Kb7! 85.Kc4 Kb8 delayed the game’s zugzwang) 85.Kc4 Kb7 86.Kb5 Kc7 87.Nc4? (postpones the win by about 15 moves because black’s King gets closer to the center! First, he had to be confined to the eighth rank, starting with 87.Kc5! Kb7 88.Nc4 Kc7 89.Nb6 Rb7 90.Nd5 Ka6 91.Kb4 Ka7 92.Ka5 Kb7 93.Kb5 Kc8 [or 93…Ka7 94.Nb4 Kb7 95.Na6 Ka7 96.Nc5] 94.Kc6 Kd8 95.Kd6. After more than 20 further moves interspersed with new esoteric maneuvers 😊, the next ideal position would finally have been reached.

Now it’s time to checkmate! 1.Ng4! Kh8 2.Nf6 h2 3.Nf4 h1=Q 4.Ng6 mate.

In the game, after 87.Nc4? Kd7 88.Kb6 Ke6 89.Kc6 Kf5 90.Ne3+ Ke4 91.Ng2 Ke5, Magnus had to start all over again from scratch, and preferred not to insist by taking the h4 pawn…

Contre Wesley So, sur fond de décor bleuté (Photo GCT).
With Wesley So, against a bluish background (Photo GCT).

ROUND 7: MVL – SO 1-0

A tactical game decided in one key moment:

Black has a difficult choice. Taking on g5 with the Bishop and allowing Qxf7+, or sacrifice the exchange on g5. After a 2-minute thought, the piece fell on the wrong side for Wesley, with his erroneous choice to discard 26…Bxg5! 27.Qxf7+ Kh6 (for the anecdote after 27…Kh8, I had calculated a losing variation for me! 28.Nxd6 Bf6 29.Ne8 and I was very proud of what I thought was a forced mate after 29…Bxe8 30.Qg8+ or 29…Qxe8 30.Qxf6+ or 29…Rxe8 30.Rxe8+ followed by 31.Qg8+ or 31.Qxf6+. But 29…Rg5+! is a cold shower! 30.Kh2 [30.Kh1 Bc6+; 30.Kf1 Bxh3+] 30…Qb8+ and it’s White who gets his ass kicked! I think I would have realized it along the way because instead of the « brilliant » 29.Ne8?, the direct 29.Rxe5 Bxe5 30.Qd5! Qg5+ [30…Bxd6 31.Qd4+] 31.Kh1 wins, as does the subtle 29.h4! controlling g5) 28.f4! (28.Nxd6 Bf6 29.Ne4 looks almost winning, but 29…Qe8! 30.Qxf6 Rxe4 with an imminent draw) 28…Rxe4 29.Rxe4 (I guess Wesley missed 29.fxg5+? Qxg5+ with a counter-check!) 29…Bf6 with a better version of the « pawn vs exchange » position than in the game.

Returning to the diagrammed position, Wesley finally chose 26…Rxg5+? 27.Nxg5 Bxg5 28.Qxf7+ Kh6 29.Rad1 Bxh3 30.Be6! Bxe6 31.Rxe6 and the heavy white pieces are too powerful.


An interesting theoretical debate in a line that’s becoming trendy against the Queen’s Gambit accepted.

Unfortunately, I didn’t remember my file, which mentioned here 19…Nh5! as the only way to keep a complex position, the idea being that after 20.Kf2 (20.g3? Nxg3! was what I completely overlooked over the board) 20…Nf4, White must play the anti-development move 21.Bf1.

Instead, I opted for the inferior 19…Nd7?! 20.Bd4?! (20.0-0 was more precise, preventing the continuation of the game; 20…a5? 21.Ra1!) 20…a5! 21.bxa6 Rxa6? (missing the point, and yet I’d seen 21…Nc5! 22.Be2 Nxa6 23.Ra4 Rb8 which is unclear) 22.0-0 Ra8 23.Rfb1 and now, the conglomerate of hyper-solid white pieces clearly dominates black’s Queen.

Classement final de Varsovie (image
Final rankings in Warsaw (image

So, in the Warsaw rapids, I achieved a better score than in Bucharest, from 50% to +2. I’m not jumping up and down, but the idea is for my chess to settle in gradually.

In the Blitz portion held over the last two days in Warsaw, I think I’ve produced a fairly uneven result, although I’m quite happy with some games; others have certainly been a little more tricky for me, particularly in the second half of the first day.

In the end, +3 wasn’t quite up to my expectations in terms of result, but it was also my return to blitz, as I hadn’t played since the World Championship in December. And a resumption is always a bit tricky to manage, at least at this level of competition.

So I’m taking this 50% in Bucharest and this tie for third in Warsaw with philosophy, but I’ll have to perform better in Saint-Louis in November if I’m to have any chance of finishing a sixth year in a row on the Grand Chess Tour podium!

Le classement du Grand Chess Tour 2023 après 2 tournois (Image GCT).
Grand Chess Tour 2023 standings after 2 tournaments (Image GCT).


Maxime’s games in Bucharest :

Maxime’s rapid games in Warsaw:

Maxime’s blitz games in Warsaw:

The chess boom is undeniable, even if its proportions vary from one region of the world to another. In France, the famous investigative and reporting magazine « Envoyé Spécial », broadcast on France 2, decided to devote a long section to this boom. As such, it chose to follow Maxime specifically for two weeks. The TV team accompanied him to the French Youth Championships in Agen, where he was invited by the French Federation as an ambassador. They then filmed a day in Paris, between sports training and a visit to his sponsor « Immortal Game ». Finally, the « Envoyé Spécial » reporters also visited Bucharest, for the final rounds of the tournament inaugurating the Grand Chess Tour 2023.

Scheduled for broadcast on a Thursday evening in June on France 2.

Twice as nice in Bundesliga

Before the big events starting in May, I played the final rounds of the team championships in Austria and Germany, and the teams I played on both won the national title 😊.

Austrian Championship:

At the end of last year, I was contacted to be part of the Linz team, which had just moved up to the First Division. What I liked the most was that I kind of knew all the players of the team well, starting with Etienne [Bacrot], Jules [Moussard], Parham [Maghsoodloo], but also the two Russians, Andrei [Esipenko] and Kirill [Alekseenko], as well as the two older players, Arkadij [Naïditsch] and Csaba [Balogh]. The discussions between my manager and the head of the Linz team – who has been elected President of the Austrian Chess Federation in the meantime! – were very smooth and the deal was quickly closed.

So we were in the best conditions to play, and I was present for the three gatherings of a few days which were scheduled.

The level of the Austrian championship on Board 1 was higher than I thought. And on the whole, quite a few games were tense because on six boards, it can go quite fast. Even if sometimes the opponents were trailing us by an average 200 Elo points, it only takes a surprise in one game, and one or two draws elsewhere, and the match could easily get out of hand.

That’s what happened as we drew two matches. Fortunately, our number 1 rival of the season, the Jenbach team, lost a match afterwards, allowing us to win the title in our first year in the top League. Some may have reservations about the value of this title in Austria, but I’ll take it anyway 😊.

Huschenbeth (2599) – MVL : 1/2-1/2


A funny anecdote in this game. After playing 41…h6, I offered a draw to my opponent, because I could see that he was going to return the pawn and for me it would have been equal afterwards.

My teammate sitting next to me, Parham Maghsoodloo, asked me after the game why I had declined the draw. In fact, he misheard my opponent’s refusal for a proposal!

The game continued 42.Bc3 Rxe4 43.Rc8+ Kh7 44.h5. Here I missed a very simple possibility to make a draw, and I am a bit ashamed: I could have played 44…Ra1! 45.Bxa1 Re1+ 46.Kf2 Rxd1 47.Bc3 Rd5 48.g4 Rg5!; I’ll play …f5 and the endgame with the g and h pawns against the h5 pawn is drawn. I didn’t see 44…Ra1; you don’t necessarily want to give away the Rook like that, so I didn’t think of it.

What I played did not compromise the draw, even though the sequence 44…Rf4 45.Re8 Raf2 46.Kh2 Ra2 was slightly esoteric 😊. I never played …f6 because if the Bishop lands on d5 I might get mated.

White just blundered with 57.Kf3?

After a blunder by my opponent, we got this position and I didn’t realize how superior it was. That said, I didn’t really look for it because the draw my opponent offered me at that moment ensured us victory in the match. Seeing that my calculations weren’t very good (and that my King was still on h5 😊), I figured I’d better accept.

Anyway, I hadn’t considered the winning move 59…Re8! with the idea 60.Kf5 (white is almost in zugzwang!) 60…Rf8+ 61.Ke5 Kg5 and black’s King exits. I had looked at 59…Ra7 60.Kf5 (while 60.Bf5 draws immediately) 60…Rg6 (obviously I was starting to really miscalculate because I didn’t see that 60…Re8 61.Re1 Rf8+ 62.Bf6 Ra5+ was winning) 61.Re1 Rf7+ 62.Ke5 and I realized that I could get checkmated anytime because white is threatening Rh1 and Bd2. If I had seen a relatively clear win like the one after 59…Re8!, I would have played on; in an individual game as well, I probably would have continued.

MVL-Roseneck (2410) : 1-0

A system from the London that just happened to appear in the Ding-Nepo world championship game the next day, even though they didn’t play exactly the same line; the coincidence is funny.



Here I made a mistake. My original plan was 18.g4?! Ng7 19.Qe3, which is actually catastrophic after 19…e5! 20.dxe5 Qd7. According to the computer I’m still better but it’s getting scary because you have to play 21.Bg3 Qxg4 22.Ne4 to keep the advantage, which seemed really weird. So I escaped from this mess with 19.g5, but I wasn’t very happy about the open lines in front of my King. After 19…Be7, however, I missed a very strong move: 20.h5! which I discovered in the analysis. The game continued with 20.Ne5?! cxd4 21.Nxc6 Bxc6 22.cxd4. I was a bit afraid of 22…e5, but I didn’t think my opponent would see it, which he didn’t indeed. Parham, always quick to intervene, asked me if I had seen this 22…e5. Yes! And I was going to play 23.dxe5 because if 23.Bxe5 Bxg5 24.hxg5 Qg5+ and it’s a draw. After 23.dxe5, I thought I would be a little better in a very compex position because the diagonals are open, and there is a blockade coming with the Knight on e6.

I played rather preciselyt the rest of the game, until I accepted a Queen’s exchange at move 35 with 35.Qe5?.


could have played 35.Nf6 right away, and after 35…Qe7 (there is no longer 35…Qb8 because of 36.Nd7) 36.Qe5 and I’m winning. In my mind, if I exchanged Queens it was easily won because of his Knight stuck on g7. Hence my move 34.Qe5?, and I expected 34…Qe7, whereupon I planned 35.Re3. But when my opponent played 34…Qb8! I realized that it wasn’t that simple. I’m still much better, but it has become a complicated ending.


Here, he could play 45…Bf5!. I had calculated 46.Bxf5 gxf5 47.Kf4 Kg6 48.Rd6 Rxb2 49.Rxd5 Kxf6 (only move) 50.Rxf5+ Kg6 51.Rg5+ Kh6 52.Rc5. Here I did not know how

I was going to win, or even if I was going to win it at all. However, I thought I had a good chance because black’s King is confined to h6 and my d-pawn can advance. In the end it turns out that it’s probably a draw after 52…Rb3! 53.Ke4 Rxa3 54.Rxb5 Ra1 55.Ra5 a3 56.Kf5 a2 57.f4 Rd1; black gets the d-pawn back and the Rook ending with f- and h-pawns against an h-pawn is a draw.

I clearly would have suffered to win this endgame because everything can be simplified. But black also had a lot of opportunities to make mistakes.

But it all ended well because he didn’t play 45…Ff5 and preferred 45…Rxb2? 46.Kf4! and my King was able to infiltrate to b5, and then the endgame was definitely winning.

German Championship:

Even though I didn’t play the first few games, my team from Baden-Baden won everything. But Virnheim was also winning all its matches, and sometimes by quite large margins. So we thought that the last weekend’s match against them would be decisive. But they broke down, having probably not had the possibility to send their best line up in important matches on the 2 previous weekends, and had to drop points on the way. Before the last weekend we were first. In the penultimate round, Virnheim’s team beat us convincingly with a somewhat harsh score of 3-0, congratulations to them! But this defeat did not prevent us from winning the title in the last round.

On a personal level, there were ups and downs in theses Leagues, though I ended up undefeated in both of them. Only wins with white and draws with black in Austria (+5, =4). In Germany it is not exactly the same, because I drew once with white and won once with black (+4, =5).

This is my fifth title with Baden-Baden. And it’s always nice to win titles with the clubs. It was also an opportunity for me to do some tests. The most important thing was not to get out of the habit of playing classical games before the upcoming events. I didn’t want to take a break of almost 8 months with 0 classical games in tournaments.

Ding-Nepo World Championship match:

Ding Liren

It is difficult to conclude without saying a word about the world championship!

After my very last game in the Bundesliga, I was able to follow live the fourth tie-break game between Ding Liren and Nepo, which gave the world title to the Chinese. It kept us on our toes. I was surprised by the speed of the decisions taken by the two players in such a decisive game, but I think it was their nerves that were a bit loose. There were some critical positions very quickly. Nepo should have forced a draw at some point and didn’t. Ding managed to find nice moves, including the famous 46…Rg6! which allows the game to continue and will be remembered as the master move for the crown. In the end, the piece fell on the right side for Ding. But we can say that he really went for this title in that very last game with black.

Overall, the level was a bit low for my taste; there were some games that were given to the opponent on both sides, especially games 2 and 12.

Each player had their moments. We had also some really good games, with a pretty high level of calculation. I think at the end of the match they got a little caught up in the stakes, which is understandable because it was obviously a golden opportunity for both of them. They had a hard time finishing the match at their level; the nervous tension must have come into play, and the physical fatigue must have been felt as well.

It was a pretty exciting match with a lot of twists and turns. We had a lot of fun watching the games. It was very well attended, although we were a little worried that everyone would shun it because of Carlsen’s absence. That’s something to be glad of.

Perhaps the format should be changed, I agree with Magnus on this point. The current format is grueling for the players, it involves 6 months of intense preparation. But that’s just a personal opinion, worth what it’s worth 😊.

Ding is a very nice World Champion, coming from a country which had never had one. We will see now the development of chess in China, under the impulse of this title. Let’s also see how the two players will react, after this huge disappointment for one, and this triumph for the other.

I will have the opportunity to observe all this closely, as I will face both of them during the first tournament of the Grand Chess Tour 2023 in Bucharest, starting on May 6th!

Maxime’s games in austrian Bundesliga:

Maxime’s games in german Bundesliga :

    I made a short visit to the French Youth Championships in Agen on April 25 and 26, at the invitation of the French Federation. A quick visit on Tuesday evening at the playing hall, mostly to see the people I knew. Of course, I had a few requests for photos as soon as I arrived, but it was the next day that everything accelerated, with some media obligations and then the arrival in playing hall to launch the rounds. First the fifth round of the older categories, in a very warm atmosphere, then the youngest ones, with the presentation of Marc Llari who won the world title in U8, and of Timothé Razafindratsima, U16 European Champion, as well as the young GM Marc Andria Maurizzi.

    In any case, it was a very nice moment with the young people; I was able to tell them the weight that rested on their shoulders in order to replace me in 10 to 15 years 😊.

    The day was also spent signing autographs and taking pictures for the young – and sometimes not so young – people. It’s obviously a lot of coming and going, a lot of requests; but that’s the game and I enjoyed doing it, even if it’s not something I would be able to do every day! When the parents said « you are really patient », I answered that it was fine because I was not the one playing the game!