S.Feller returns to competitive chess!



This talented 24-year old French youngster (born March 11,1991) has just last month finished a 3-year suspension from FIDE for cheating.  The whole sordid business brought a lot of pain to himself and his family; to his fans and supporters; to French chess. Today–a lot more mature from the experience– grandmaster Sebastien Feller wants to prove just how good he is capable of being in chess. To himself and to the world. ESPECIALLY to the world.

feller (1)

Sebastien crashed and burned towards the end of 2010. Then a cocky 19-year old, Feller and several other top French chess-icons made headlines in the international media when the French Chess Federation (FFE) exposed their notorious cheating scheme at the 2010 chess Olympiad. Somehow Feller had got involved with the wrong people, the wrong life-style and found himself buried in gambling debts. He allowed himself to be convinced that cheating in chess was his way out.  He and his co-conspirators got caught…this episode is now considered ground-zero for what has today become epidemic in chess: cheating.




Flashback to the past.  Feller’s relationships with the other members of the 2010 French National Team have been badly damaged and will take a long time to recover.  Here is Feller flanked by Vachier-LaGrave (r) and Fressinet (l)


When FIDE announced that Feller’s suspsension had been lifted, he almost immediately jumped back into competitive chess.  He first played in a relatively obscure tournament at Fourmies. Feller’s results were modest, to say the least: while drawing several 2500-rated players, he could only beat 2200-2300-rated players. Feller finished in a tie for 6th to 9th place. He lost 1-rating point.




Sebastien Feller’s next competition was the tough TOP-12 which just finished a couple of days ago. This is France’s most prestigious team championship, and one of the chess world’s strongest competitions. Sebastian was part of the EVRY team, which finished in 5th place.


Feller’s own results showed a marked improvement over Fourmies, even though he started with a dismal half-point from the first four games. It is not easy to recover after a 3-year lay-off from top competition, as many of the essential skills of a top-level competitor (like Sebastien) need constant practice and upgrading. What is required as one gets back into practice is patience and understanding: at first the results will be frustrating and disappointing. Then , little by little, you begin to notice small changes and improvements. The aim is to achieve consistent results.


Feller quietly chatting with Poitiers-Migne grandmaster Adrien Demuth after their complicated and very hard fought game. (Feller won) The advantage switched side several times before Feller took the point.



At the Montpellier TOP-12 team tournament, Feller played all 11 rounds. He scored a respectable minus-1.  Feller won against Donchenko and Demuth.  He lost to Navara, Duda and Fier.  Draws against Doettling, Riazantsev, Naiditsch, Krasenkov, Vachier-LaGrave and Sasikiran.

I take a look at some positions from Feller’s games in this event.


gm Navara,D


gm Feller,S

Round 1.  Position before White’s 14th move.  White has not played a very good line against Navara’s Queen’s Indian, but is still quite OK.  He should now proceed 14.Bb2, and if 14…BxN 15.BxB Nxc4 16.NxN RxN 17.Qxa7 and things are undercontrol, for instance 17…Bxb4?! 18.Bxf6! QxB 19.Qxb6 and if anyone is better, it is White!

INSTEAD, Feller miscalculated:



Perhaps Feller simply overlooked Navara’s move…



Lack of top-level practice can do this to you!  Feller overlooked that 15.NxN loses to 15…Be4! 16.Qb3 BxR 17.QxB RxN etc.  What is worse, White’s position falls apart even if he tries to minimize the damage.  In the game, however, Feller speeded things up…

15.QxN?! BxN 16.BxB RxQ 17.NxQ Qc7 18.Na3 d5


White is completely lost.  Feller played on another 7 moves before throwing in the towel.



Feller’s game against the young Jan-Krzysztof Duda has to be one of the WORST played games in all of Montpellier!  Feller started to be better from move 25 and soon had a clearly crushing game, but REFUSED numerous opportunities to put his young opponent out of his misery. 


Jan-Krzysztof  Duda, born April 26, 1998, became a grandmaster at age 15.  In Montpellier Jan scored an amazing 75% out of ten games, achieving a 2782 performance rating.

By about move 50–after numerous mutual mistakes– the game had returned to be about equal, but Feller continued to play poorly and even lost the game in the end. Even as few as 3 moves before the end of the game, Feller could have easily held the game. Definitely, a game that both players will want to forget about!

gm Feller,S


gm Duda, JK

Position before Black’s 37th move.  Just the first of atleast 5 or 6 forced wins that Feller missed. Duda had just played 37.g4, attacking the Black Knight on h5.  The ‘old-Feller’ would have instantly seen that 37…Rxf3!! crashes thru the White position like a hot knife thru butter:  38.gxh5 ( 38.Nxf3 Nf6! 39.Qxg6 e4+ 40.Kg1 exf3 41.Ne1 Qg3+ etc )  38…Rh3+ 39.Kg1 Bf5 40.Qe1 e4 etc. INSTEAD, Feller played 37…Nf4 and the comedy of errors continued.

How to explain missing so many forced wins?  The answer lies somewhere between lacking confidence and not having as sharply tuned calculating skills as before. As noted, a three-year layoff is a LONG time in chess. Essential skills erode and disappear. 



gm  Feller,S

 gm  Fier,A

Position after White’s 13th move (13.0-0-0). There is not a lot of theory on this specific line by White, and so that makes this particular game significant, at least up to a certain point. There is one game in my database from this position, where Black played 13…Nd7, obviously afraid of castling long.  Feller did not refuse the challenge:



I think that this is the correct reply, even though it involves a pawn sacrifice on Black’s part. White has little choice in the matter but to accept it, as Black will otherwise play his King to b8 and then start counterattacking on the Kingside with …h5.



A double attack.  Wrong now is 14…Qb8?! as after 15.Kb1 and 16.Rc1 Black is really tied up and can only reorganize by weakening himself further (…a6).



Now 15.Nxa7+ is a mistake: 15…Kb8 16.Qc5 Qc7! 17. Qa5 Nc4! with advantage for Black.

15.Ne5 Qe8


The Black Queen seems to be in a horrible position, but things are under control. Now 16.Nxa7+ is just a transposition into what happens in the game

16.Qc5!? Kb8 17.Nxa7!?


The critical position of the whole line. Correct now is  17…Kxa7! 18.Qa5+ Kb8 19.Qxb6 Nc8! 20.Qb4!? ( Worse is 20.Qb3 f6! 21.Nf3 g5! 22.Nd2 ( 22.Kb1 h5 ) h5 23.f3 Nd6 24.Kb1 f5 with good counterplay for the pawn ) 20…f6 21.Nf3 Nd6!? ( Not 21…g5 as in the previous variation as White now has 22.Nd2 h5 23.Nb3! ) 22.Kb1 h5 23.g5 Qd7 and again Black has good counterplay for the pawn 

INSTEAD, Feller shows his lack of top level practice by not just avoiding the critical line but by playing a clearly inferior move. And, not unsurprisingly, is immediately LOST:







What follows now is a massacre. White strips the Black King of his pawn cover.

The next moves are all forced:

18…Nxc6 (18…bxc6 19.Qxe7! ) 19.Qd6+ Ka8 20.Nxc6 bxc6  21.Qxc6+Kb8


White need only find the most precise way to bring in his Rook

22.Qd6+! Kb7


No better would be 22…Ka8 23.Kb1! Nb8 24.Qa3+ Kb7 25.Qb4+Ka7 26.Rc1! Rc8 27.Qa5+ Kb7 28.Rxc8 Qxc8 29.Rc1 Qd7 30.Rc5! etc.

From the position above, now the most precise way to win is 23.Ba6+! Ka7 24.Bb5! Rc8+ 25.Kb1 Qd8 26.Rd3! and Black can resign with a clear conscience. 

23.Qa6+!? Kb8 24.Qb5+ Kc7 25.Kb1 Rb8 26.Qa5+ Rb6 27.Rc1+ Kb7


Now there is an elegant finish

28.Ba6+! RxB 29.Rc7+


29…Kb8 30.Qxa6 Kxc7 31.Rc1+ 


Feller is having no fun!  If now 31…Kd8 White wins easily after 32.Rc8+ Ke7 33.Qa3+ Kf6 34.RxQ RxR 35.Qd6! paralyzing Black and then advancing the a-pawn.  INSTEAD, Feller chose a faster way to lose…

31…Nc5 32.Rxc5+ Kd8 33.Qd6+ Bd7 34.Rb5 Qe4+ 35.Kc1



After Black’s checks run out it is going to be mate. A painful loss for Feller.


(To be continued)

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