A Danish Appearance
I just got a broadcast e-mail from John Henderson. Danish Grandmaster Lars Bo Hansen is going to appear on John Watson’s Chess.FM Show. A propos of Denmark, that’s where Shakespeare’s play Hamlet took place. A quick refresher:
The protagonist of Hamlet is Prince Hamlet of Denmark, son of the recently deceased King Hamlet. After the death of King Hamlet, his brother, Claudius hastily marries King Hamlet’s widow, Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. In the background is Denmark’s long-standing feud with neighbouring Norway, and an invasion led by the Norwegian prince, Fortinbras, is expected.
The play opens on a cold night at Elsinore, the Danish royal castle. The sentinels try to persuade Hamlet’s friend Horatio that they have seen King Hamlet’s ghost, when it appears again. After hearing from Horatio of the Ghost’s appearance, Hamlet resolves to see the Ghost himself. That night, the Ghost appears to Hamlet. He tells Hamlet that he is the spirit of his father, and discloses that Claudius murdered King Hamlet by pouring poison in his ears. The Ghost demands that Hamlet avenge him; Hamlet agrees and decides to fake madness to avert suspicion. He is, however, uncertain of the Ghost’s reliability.
Busy with affairs of state, Claudius and Gertrude try to avert an invasion by Prince Fortinbras of Norway. Perturbed by Hamlet’s continuing deep mourning for his father and his increasingly erratic behaviour, they send two student friends of his—Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—to discover the cause of Hamlet’s changed behaviour. Hamlet greets his friends warmly, but quickly discerns that they have turned against him.
Polonius is Claudius’ trusted chief counsellor; his son, Laertes, is returning to France, and his daughter, Ophelia, is courted by Hamlet. Neither Polonius nor Laertes thinks Hamlet is serious about Ophelia, and they both warn her off. Shortly afterwards, Ophelia is alarmed by Hamlet’s strange behaviour and reports to her father that Hamlet rushed into her room but stared at her and said nothing. Polonius assumes that the “ecstasy of love” is responsible for Hamlet’s madness, and he informs Claudius and Gertrude. Later, in the so-called Nunnery Scene, Hamlet rants at Ophelia, and insists she go “to a nunnery“.
A Dane Appears circa 2008
Going back to 1989, here is Lars Bo competing in the 1989 Berlin Summer Open (Joel Benjamin and I also made the foray to Berlin; this was just before the Berlin Wall came down!).
Lars Bo Hansen, Berlin, West Germany (American Sektor), 1989
What else is notable about this Chess.FM event? Well, first of all, (and this is not widely known), John Watson was once a partyer. What else is notable? Lars Bo Hansen had a life as an IM before he was a GM! Here he is as an IM battling yours truly in a provincial Danish town back in the day.
Mark Ginsburg vs Lars Bo Hansen (DEN)
Naestved Open, 1988
1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. Nf3 e6 4. e3 Be7 5. d4 cxd4 6. exd4 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Bd3 Nc6 9. O-O O-O 10. Re1 Bf6?! I don’t trust this variation for black; it looks too passive.
11. Be4 Nce7 12. Ne5 12. Qd3 is very popular in the database as well.
12…g6 Now if 12…Nc6?! 13. Qd3 and white has scored well. White has to play very concretely now to compensate for his isolated queen pawn.
Position after 12…g6
13. Bh6 Bg7 14. Qd2 The main line in the databases is 14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. Qf3. However, 15. Qd2! is dangerous for black (planning Rac1 and also sometimes h2-h4). For example, 15. Qd2 b6 16. Rac1 Bb7 17. f3!? and white retains some pressure. The move in the game also has these dark square ideas.
14…Nf6 15. Bc2 It’s not clear how much of an edge 15. Bxg7 Nxe4!? 16. Nxe4 Kxg7 17. Rac1 Nd5 will be. In addition, black can try 17…b6 18. Rc3!? Bb7! 19. Rh3 h5! (and not 18…Nf5? 19. g4!). The kind of thing black does not want is instructive: 15. Bxg7 Kxg7? 16. Bf3! Ned5 17. Rac1 b6 18. Nxd5 Nxd5 19. Bxd5! (19. Ng4? occurred in a minor-league game) 19…Qxd5? 20. Rc7! Qxa2 21. Ng4! and wins. Or, 19…exd5 and white is comfortably better with the superior minor piece. Nigel Short won a game recently with this kind of advantageous structural transformation.
15…b6 16. Rad1 16. Bxg7 looks more to the point.
16…Bb7 17. Bb3 Ned5 18. Bg5 A small change of mind but white retains some initiative.
18…Nxc3 18…Rc8 is more careful.
Position after 19. bxc3
19… Qc8 20. Qd3 Qc7 An interesting moment. If 20…Nd7 21. Nxf7!? is possible. 21…Rxf7 22. Bxe6 Qf8 23. Re3 Kh8 24. Bxf7 Qxf7 25. Re7 Qd5 26. Qh3 and in this scary situation, 26…Bc6! defends (but not 26…Qxg5?? 27. Rxg7! and wins). 25. c4!? is also possible in this line. Black’s careful move avoids this possibility.
21. c4?! Correct is 21. f3 first. 21. f3 Rac8 22. c4 Ba6 23. Rc1 with a small edge.
21…Nd7! Now the b3-f7 diagonal is blocked off and black doesn’t have to worry.
22. Nxd7 22. Ng4 is met by the simple 22..h5! 23. Ne3 Rfe8! with excellent play. Black is fine.
22…Qxd7 23. Qh3 23. d5 e5 is about equal.
23…b5! A well-timed bid for counterplay.
24. d5! This aggressive counter looks very good at first sight, but black can defend adequately.
24…bxc4 25. dxe6
Position after 25. dxe6. Black to play and draw.
25… Qb5! 26. Be7 cxb3 27. Bxf8 Rxf8 28. e7 Re8 29. Rd8! Brief fireworks have broken out, but equilibrium is quickly reached.
Position after 29. Rd8
29… bxa2 30. Qb3! It is kind of cool to be able to hang one’s queen on purpose, but after black’s next white has nothing better than to steer for the draw.
30…Bc6! It was too much to hope for black to fall into the elementary tactical trap 30…Qc6?? 31. Qxb7 winning.
31. Rxe8+ Bxe8 32. Qxb5 Bxb5 33. e8=Q+ Bxe8 34. Rxe8+ Bf8 35. Re1 Bg7 And it’s a draw by repetition. A very interesting game! I had the distinct sense I was playing a Danish version of solid American GM Yasser Seirawan.