The chief organiser, Jean-Paul Touze, is a far from insubstantial gentleman who, I am told, at one stage swam for France. The power behind a world junior championship which was held in Belfort in the early Eighties, M Touze has consistently produced a strong Belfort team for the ferociously competitive - and sometimes downright litigious - French league. And after something of a hiatus, he again started holding high-quality tournaments a few years ago.
This year's event, which started on 14 December and finishes tomorrow, is a six-player double-rounder averaging 2,572. After six of the ten rounds the lead was held by Mikhail Gurevich (Belgium) on 5/6 ahead of Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine) 4.5 well clear of Arnaud Hauchard (France) 3, Victor Bologan (Moldavia) 2.5, Eduardas Rozentalis (Lithuania) 2 and Jean-Marc Degraeve (France) on just 1.
Of these the most topical for us is 15-year-old Ruslan Ponomariov who is going on to Hastings, starting a week today. Already a tough player, he surely won't be favourite - that position must belong to Matthew Sadler or perhaps Ivan Sokolov: but Ponomariov is mighty dangerous, more it is true in the style of an anaconda than a cobra.
This was the instructive finish to a long grind. If 79 Rg8+ Kh4 80 Rf8 Rb6+ 81 Kg7 Rxb7+ wins.
(Black to play)
Arnaud Hauchard (White)
69... Kg1 70 Rg8+ Kh1 71 Rf8 Rb3+ 72 Kh4 Kg2 73 Rg8+ Kh2 74 Rf8 Rb4+ 75 .Kxh5 Kg3 76 Rg8+ Kh3 77 Rf8 Rb5+ 78 Kh6 Kg3 79 b8Q+ Rxb8 80 Rxb8 f1Q and White resigned on move 91.
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