GM Eric Hansen plays in 2018 February Knights

It’s rare for a Grandmaster to play in St. John’s or Newfoundland. GM Mark Bluvshtein played a Canadian Chess Challenge as an IM near Memorial University around 2002. And in 2013, GM Aman Hambleton (former NL resident, then an IM), participated in and won the NL Open. Big congrats to Aman on recently achieving his GM title!

Much earlier, GM Bent Larsen, GM Pal Benko, and GM Walter Browne played a Canadian Open held in St. John’s in 1970 (48 years ago!). I was able to find a detailed article on the event written by Vojin Vujosevic, who participated in the tournament. Check it out

It was a real treat that GM Eric Hansen was able to come play our weekend swiss event (February 16-18). He’s still just 25 years old and his chess resume, to name just a few items I’m aware of, includes:

  • two-time winner of the Canadian Open
  • currently rated 2629 FIDE (a personal best)
  • challenger to world champion Magnus Carlsen in lengthy online blitz and bullet matches
  • live commentator for prestigious events in Saint Louis and the recent 2018 Tata Steel masters tournament in Wijk an Zee
  • creator of Chessbrah channels and business. The original chessbrah

The chessbrahs are very popular chess streamers on Twitch and YouTube. They often play bullet (1-minute), time odds games, and blindfold games at a ridiculously high level – often while listening to dance/techno music. They also provide commentary for many popular high level chess tournaments such as the Candidates. Eric, Aman Hambleton, Robin Van Kampen, and other chessbrah members have done a lot to promote chess in Canada and their fanbase extends beyond that as well.

Part of Eric’s motivation for coming to Newfoundland was to fulfill rated game requirements to play the chess Olympiad later this year in Georgia. He also wanted to visit the province since he hadn’t been here before. It was really awesome of him to give his time to play this event, and to hang out and chat.

We had a number of talented new players come out to play, including Xingbo Huang, Brandon Fudge, Nithum Thain, and Curtis Mullaly. Multi-time NL Open champion Anthony Leonard also participated after a bit of a layoff, which was great to see. There was a lot of excitement in the air, for sure. Big thanks to Mohammad Kowsari for reserving the MUN Engineering Lounge for the event.


February Knights – Round 2. Photo by: Michael Pickard

The 5-round, 3-day tournament kept everyone pretty busy, but we were still able to bring Eric to O’Reilly’s on George Street in downtown St. John’s for some traditional music and drinks, and to see some local people. A group of us also had dinner and chatted with Eric at a restaurant/brewery called Yellowbelly on Sunday evening. It is really impressive that he has higher ambitions with his chess and with his Chessbrah business, which continues to grow rapidly.

Eric also encouraged us all to come out for dinner and blitz after round 3 on Saturday. He dominated the games from what I could tell, but it was a blast.


Fun blitz after Round 3. Credit: Michael Pickard

At the tournament itself, which was played at 60 minutes per player with 30 second increments, Eric won with a score of 5/5 against Ryan Pickard, Nihad Dervisevic, Anthony Leonard, Jordan Berson, and Steve Martin. He was never really in trouble in any of the games! Congratulations! As mentioned previously, some new players had some very nice performances. Xingbo made draws with Anthony and Mohammad, Brandon won against 2017 NL Open co-champ Jiaying and he drew against Anthony, Curtis drew against Steve, and Nithum gave Nihad a really hard fight in a losing effort. Full standings here.

Here are two of Eric’s games against Jordan and Steve (Jordan, Mohammad, and I shared second place):

[Event “February Knights”]
[Round “4”]
[White “Jordan S. Berson”]
[Black “Eric Hansen”]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 { E00 Catalan Opening } c5 4. Nf3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nc6 6. Bg2 Bc5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Nc3 b6 10. Nd4 Bb7 11. Bf4 Na5 12. Bxb7 Nxb7 13. e4 Bb4 14. e5 Bxc3 15. exf6 Bxd4 16. Qxd4 Qxf6 17. Be5 Qg6 18. Qxd7 Nc5 19. Qd1 h5 20. h4 Rad8 21. Qe2 Nd3 22. Bc3 e5 23. Rad1 e4 24. Qe3 f5 25. Qg5 Qf7 26. Kh2 Rd6 27. f3 Rg6 28. Qxh5 Nf4 29. gxf4 Rg2+ 30. Kxg2 Qxh5 31. Rd7 Rf7 32. Rxf7 Kxf7 33. Be1 Qg6+ 34. Bg3 Qf6 35. b3 e3 36. Re1 Qb2+ 37. Kf1 Qd2 38. Re2 Qd3 39. Bh2 Qd1+ { White resigns. } 0-1

[Event “February Knights”]
[Round “5”]
[White “Eric Hansen”]
[Black “Steve Martin”]
1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. f4 Nf6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Bd3 { B09 Pirc Defense: Austrian Attack, Weiss Variation } Nc6 7. e5 dxe5 8. fxe5 Nd5 9. Nxd5 Qxd5 10. c3 Bg4 11. Qe2 Rad8 12. Be4 Bxf3 13. Qxf3 Qb5 14. Qe2 Qxe2+ 15. Kxe2 f6 16. exf6 Rxf6 17. Bf3 Rf7 18. Bg4 Kf8 19. Be6 Rf6 20. d5 h6 21. g4 g5 22. h4 gxh4 23. g5 hxg5 24. Bxg5 Rxe6+ 25. dxe6 Rd6 26. Raf1+ Ke8 27. Rxh4 Rxe6+ 28. Kd1 b5 29. a4 b4 30. cxb4 Bxb2 31. b5 Nd4 32. Rf2 Bc3 33. Bd2 Rd6 34. Rh3 Bxd2 35. Rxd2 c6 36. Rh4 e5 37. Rh5 cxb5 38. Rxe5+ Kd7 39. axb5 Ne6 40. Rh5 Rxd2+ 41. Kxd2 Kc7 42. Kc3 Nd8 43. Kb4 Nb7 44. Rh6 Nd6 45. Ka5 Nc8 46. Ka6 Nd6 47. Rxd6 Kxd6 48. Kxa7 { Black resigns. } 1-0

Thanks to everyone for coming out, and big thanks to Eric for playing and spending time here.