Monday, 26 September 2016


Macon is a town on the crossroads between Geneva and Lyon, and Paris and Nice. I had passed through many times and always thought, I gotta have a closer look one day. In prctise this is not so easy. The cobblestone Roman roads best suited to a horse and cart, and haphazard one way signage make driving around a nightmare. Add to this the locals all nervous and in a hurry and the first sign out of town was too tempting.

I figured I could stay just outside and commute. A few minutes out of town I stopped at a Chateau. Another car pulled up, a couple got out, I said "bonjour" as is customary here and got the response "g'day"!! We were the only people there.

Anyway, we chatted and Trudy & Tony from Newcastle told me that Cluny was a nice town and I had to check out the Abbey. With the afternoon free I followed their advice. It looked nice, is only a 30 minute drive from Macon so why not stay the night?

If you are ever in the area this is a great place to stay. It is built adjacent to the Abbey and quite luxurious inside. The price is barely more than a McHotel in Macon.

So lets do a tour!

Just next door is the Abbey which is a weird combination of school and museum.

There is not much left of the original structure. The French revolution in 1798 was not too kind to the religious institutions. The symbols of power and oppression were destroyed, churches set ablaze, decorations crudely vandalised and heads of both statues and humans separated from bodies.

To make up for the lack of anything normally associated with an Abbey like stained glass windows, gargoyles, murals, stories have been placed.

Someone went to a lot of trouble to remove whatever was decorating the arches. 

Restoration is still going on and some of the former residents have been remounted although not in their entirety. Poor fell doesn't have much to say anymore.

The gardens are huge and the view is magnificent.

Some parts are yet to be unearthed.

This church was built in the 12 century. 

These pillars were just placed here to decorate an otherwise empty hall.

Not the neatest gardens I have ever seen unless you are going for the "Andy Warhol" effect with the strategically placed Coke bottle. Either that or "we are French and don't give a ...."

A Cyclops Ent?

So if you have plenty of time and want to support the school, by all means visit the Abbey. At 9.50 euros it won't send you broke but there is more to see outside.

Out on the street just next to the Abbey is another church and this war memorial. Reminders of the two world wars are everywhere. I'm not sure a few sculptures and medals are sufficient reward for running into machine gun fire but that must be just me.

And here we have a street named after the day Cluny got bombed. Just below this sign was a shop selling Bratwurst to German tourists, of which there are many.

On one side of this tiny river is the town, on the other, farms. The contrast is quite striking.

Now I had circled the town and came upon this cute little bar and restaurant. Pity it was still closed. Between 2 and 5pm few places are open.

View from the park

The "Hotel de Ville" or Town hall.  

Not sure what this is but worth a picture. More from Burgundy soon.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Antoine Favarel wins the Open De Vins 2016

Hourtin port

This is the first time I have played at the new venue, although it is the second edition. The chess charm of the Camping La Rochade is gone, with it's dedicated chess events all summer, activities such as Condi chess and the bookshop. Rike and Jules Armas sold their campsite a few years ago and the new owners, not being chessplayers, didn't appreciate our game. 

Now the new accomodation venue is the Village Western Camping which is not a chess campsite but specialises in Equestrian activities and has a wild west feel about it. Although the chess charm is missing it is a lot more professionally run (no offence Rike&Jules)  and has a lot more to offer to non chess players.

The new venue is a great improvement and although there are no goats or chickens in the adjacent paddock, there are plenty of cafe's restaurants, shops, playgounds and a lake beach where you can indulge in water sports like sailing or play mini-golf or hire a bike....etc 

Boats can also be hired from the port.

The bridge in the distance leads to Banana Island where dogs can be walked. 

And this is the Beach. No crocodiles and shallow so safe for bad swimmers.

You could get lost though. This lake is huge. 

Open De Vins 2016

Antoine Favarel scored an amazing 8.5/9 this year. He has been playing in this tournament since he has been a junior and I'm sure we have played several times. This is the first time I remember him beating me but it was well deserved. He also beat the other IM, Paul Velten, also with black. Here he is trying the side-saddle weigh in. He had to leave immediately after the prizegiving to make it to the first round of his next tournament in Condom which started later that afternoon.

Pablo Ollier scored 8/9 which is rarely not enough to win a tournament. His chess was good but his weight let him down. He got five bottles let than I although he got half his weight. 

And here you can see why.

Paul Velten, the top seed and 2013 winner didn't tip the scales much either.

Gilles Grelier was fifth with 5.5/9 and best local player

Sixth was taken by German international player Ursula Hielscher who played a great tournament but had an easy last round when her opponents phone switched itself on.

Rike Armas won the best female prize after missing the first two rounds because she was a volunteer at EURO2016. A remarkable performance as she also played organiser, announcer, and any other odd job that needed doing. She also has great taste in t-shirts :-)

Merlin Randrianaina looks happy with his junior prize.

Here some other junior prize winners choosing their game prizes.

The full results from round 9 are here. This tournament is planning to continue next year with a possible other one to follow immediately afterwards in Lesparre but thats just in the planning phase right now. I'll keep you informed.  

Round 9
My opponent in the last round is a local swashbuckling player who plays every year as far as I can tell. He played a very tough filed and was unlucky to be jumped over in the last two round as Jean had to play Favarel and yours truly.

He had a go, sacking a knight and it was a bit more dangerous than I thought. He should have held back with 16.Ng5+  and played Kh2 instead. Then it seems he had compensation. As it happened there was none and after the second piece fell he lost on time.

That's all for now folks, I hope you enjoyed the reports. I'm back in Australia, via Munich, on Friday to pollute young minds with wacky chess ideas :D

Friday, 8 July 2016

Bunkers of World War Two in Le Pin Sec and round 8


Over the years I have taken a lot of pictures of these bunkers and they change every year. They are battered by the elements and enhanced by local artists. This year the sand was high so a lot of them were quite low and it was not possible to walk inside. Also they were adorned with some new graffiti.

After the photo's we had a swim in the cool Atlantic. The waves were perfect for body surfing although this is a rare sport here. There are quite a few surfing schools but they all use boards. Wimps! :-)  

From the top of the dunes one can see the bunkers lining the beach.

Fresh water oozes from the bottom of the dunes creating a little ecosystem.

The closest bunker to the swimming area.

The other side.

This one is nearly under the sand now. They disappear and come back when storms wash the sand away.

The shade was on the other side so why spoil my photo?

There be Dragons!

One can still go inside this one.

This bunker is a different shape. The command centre?

Slowly but surely the sea is taking them apart.

Nina liked the Shark.

German Sheppard on guard duty?

Looks like half the mural is buried.

Gregor the surfing Dragon :D

Last one for today, thanks for looking.

Round 8

The target practice has started. Only Pablo Olliers is having some trouble. When I left he was in an unclear position against a determined 1900. There is hope :-)

My game was uneventful. My opponent had to jettison a pawn to get out of the bind and never got any counterplay, eventually losing on time. I guess that saved me some moves.

So one more round to survive (9am), a few bottles if I'm lucky and then back home. Tune in tomorrow for the final report. Toodles.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Open de Vins 2016 Round 7

We went to the Montalivet markets again, had a nice swim and bought some very nice food. I did manage to get a quarter of an hour of superficial preparation in but it was no great help. The game itself was my worst for quite a while.

Round 7

My first suspect decision came as early as move eleven when I played 11... Qg4 instead of the natural 11...Bg4. My thinking was that since endgames had gone well for me lately I would swap Queens early. Don't ask me why I changed my mind two moves later. My very next move 14...Bc3 was just a disaster after which good play from a strong young player, Pablo, was enough to make me look like a beginner.

The top seed lost as well so the titled players have all played each other with Antoine Favarel leading on 6.5/7, Pablo Ollier on 6/7, me on 5/7 and Paul Velten on 4.5/7. So now there's just two rounds of target practise left and unless one of us shoots themselves in the foot these should be the final standings. Mind you, all of us have bullet holes in our feet :-) Will keep you informed.

Tonight all of France was watching the Germany-France half final in the  Euro2016 soccer tournament. The atmosphere was very lively with lots of painted faces, flags, cheering and of course drinking. France won 2-0 so German tourists and those that spoke German or could be mistaken for Germans weren't lynched. Phew! 

Doubleroo gastronomic and accommodation review & Round 6

The new accommodation sponsor for the annual wine tournament is the Western Village camping and equestrian centre. While it doesn't have quite the chess family feel about it that Camping La Rochade had, it is nevertheless a nice place to stay. The grounds are very well kept and there is a plethora of activities, especially for kids.  

The office looks like the main bar in Tombstone and has a western themed counter at the reception. All kinds of wild west paraphernalia decorates the walls. 

There is a Main street with familiar names like Wells & Fargo and a Marshalls office (bike rental) and places to tether horses.

Water tower and wind pump.

And of course horses and ponies. They have riding courses, ponies for little kids and rides along the beach and through the forest.

The size of the Camping ground is quite amazing. This is the Indian village with tipi's that sleep eight! 

We are staying in one of there two bedroom mobile homes with bathroom and toilet. Very comfy.

If you are in the area I can definitely recommend this place, especially if you are into horses or Glamping. The bathrooms are spotlessly clean and the facilities are first class. The swimming pool is large and quite nice although with the lake and ocean nearby...

My only reservation is the shop. Two things annoyed me, one has to order croissants ahead of time and they don't stock full cream milk. Not a huge problem, there is a great bakery just a few minutes bike ride up the road in Hourtin and a fridge in our mobile home.

Round 6

I must stop playing total **** in the opening.  Had my opponent played 18. Re5, sacking the exchange I would have been really suffering. Instead he exchanged into a pawn up ending and offered a draw. Since I thought I could probably hold it (Karpov quote), I played on and on move (44.Bd6) he blundered, allowing me to trap his king on h6. 

We spent the evening watching the quarter finals of the Euro2016 football, first in the Bar L'escale which has a brilliant pizzeria next door and you can eat it in said bar. Really one of the best pizzas anywhere. Doubleroo gastronomic review gives it 5 stars, our highest possible rating.

Later amigoes, gotta go exploring :-)