Hansen wins round 4!
The middle round of the tournament saw Canadian star Eric Hansen down his talented American rival in a sharp variation of the Taimanov Sicilian. With this fine victory Eric removed the American star from his 1st place position, which he himself now occupies, along with Catalan grandmaster Marc Narciso.
Eric seems to have shaken some bad luck that had tailed him for the past several months–spoiling good positions–and now finally his results seem to reflect the value of the positions that he is able to achieve. With the second half of the event to begin tomorrow, Eric has positioned himself in strongly. Though too early to make sound bets, the next round will be very important for the final stretch. Good luck Eric!
This time Eric’s opponent decided not to let him play the Rossolimo/Moscow variation , choosing 2…e6 instead. There followed an usual and little played move order by Shankland–probably hoping to catch the Canadian grandmaster by surprise! INSTEAD, Shankland was the one to be surprised as Eric played a strong theoretical novelty on his 10th move, calling into question the soundness of Black’s play. No doubt the theoreticians will take a close look at this game!
gm Hansen,E vs gm Shankland,S
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be3 a6 7.Qd2 Nf6 8.f4 b5 9.e5 b4
10.Ncb5! axb5 11.Nxb5 Qb8 12.exf6 gxf6 13.c4! bxc3 14.bxc3
Most of this seems to have been forced since move 10 and now it is time to take stock: the Black King will no doubt find it difficult to find refuge –his Kingside is split–and Black has little or no counterplay with which to annoy White. Even the Queenside seems to belong to White, as after a later Rb1 the Black Queen will begin to feel hunted. I would assess the position as difficult to very-difficult for Black.
The transmission of the next moves seem to have experienced technical serious problems and I will wait for Eric to send me the exact sequence of moves, but I feel reasonably certain that the concluding moves of the game starting from the position after 32 moves are correct:
White is clearly on top, an exchange up with the better game. However, he must watch out for Black’s nasty threats against his King. Shankland has a well deserved reputation for being able to pull rabbits from his hat…Eric , however, never gives him the chance!
The Bishop can not be taken!
33…Kg8! 34.Re1 !Be2 35.Qd4 Qc8 36.Kg1 Qa6?
It is mate one way or the other…