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GM Pascal Prevails in The Battle of the Border Print E-mail
By GM Pascal Charbonneau   
September 9, 2010
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GM Pascal Charbonneau in deep thought
Americans beware!  This was not a long-awaited revenge bout for the USA vs Canada , but rather a chess tournament held on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan, in the town of Lloydminster, a city of 25,000 run in large by the oil conglomerate Husky's.  How did Jamin Gluckie, organizer of the event, bring together such a strong field (with two GMs and many of Canada's best players like Teplitsky, Yoos and Hansen) ?  Essentially, he realized that the promise of a good time is sometimes stronger than the promise of big bucks, and the locals were happy to welcome an unusually strong field, led by Hikaru Nakamura. 

Hikaru, in particular, agreed to play despite a very hectic schedule , mainly because he knew we'd have a good time, and a good time we did have!  Not all can be told in these few lines, but suffice to say that we became familiar with the concept of "cow-tipping" , more aptly debunked as a myth.  Also, Yoos (as the iron chef), aided by sous-chefs Nakamura, Teplitsky, Gluckie and Charbonneau cooked many feasts, a strong incentive resulting from the most fancy restaurants in Lloyd: Boston Pizza and Pizza Hut. 

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GM Hikaru Nakamura
The tournament was going well for the two GMs (Nakamura and me) and we had to face each other in round four as the only two players with three out of three.  In round three Hikaru had defeated soundly the strong IM Teplitsky in a complex Nimzo-Indian.  Hikaru surprised me right away when on move 2 he chose the Philidor defense, and played a risky gambit that was popular some centuries ago after 3.d4 f5?! The experiment was a debacle, and although the intensity and pressure Hikaru put on me was noticeable I was up to the task and won the key game in the tournament.



The next morning I was paired with Black against Eric Hansen (frequent visitor to the US chess circuit) and got a slight pull out of the opening which I managed to convert to a win with a bit of help from Eric in the end, clinching the tournament.



Hansen,E - Charbonneau

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Bd3 0-0 6.Nge2 c5 7.d5 e6 8.0-0 Ng4
Topalov has played this variation recently.
9.Bc2 Ne5 10.b3 exd5 11.cxd5 b5
afterb5wood.jpg
This is the kind of unbalanced position I am happy to get out of the opening with Black.
12.Rb1 b4 13.Na4 Nbd7
13...Ba6 This has been played before, but it seemed more natural to me to keep the bishop available on the c8-h3 diagonal, and so I decided to deviate.
14.a3
14.f4 Ng4 15.h3 Ngf6 16.g4 was recommended by Hikaru who thought it'd be better for White, but upon further analysis I still believe in black's position: 16...Re8 17.Ng3 Nb6 18.Nb2 h5!? (18...Nxg4 19.hxg4 Qh4! may be even better) 19.g5 Bxh3 20.gxf6 Qxf6 21.Rf2 Qh4 is just one example but the computer likes Black. 14...bxa3 15.Bxa3 Nb6 16.b4
it seems logical to seize the d4-square for the knight but black is very active and a more cautious move like Nac3 was probably better.
16...cxb4 17.Nxb6 Qxb6 18.Bxb4 Ba6 19.h3 Rfc8
after19...rfc8.jpg
20.Bc3
Not a good move but Eric was clearly shaken by the turn of events: instead of being slightly better, he is under pressure.  White should not be too badly off yet, for example. 20.Bd2 gets out of harm's way 20...Qc5 21.Rc1 and black's position is pleasant but there is nothing obvious.
20...Qc5 21.Bxe5 Qxc2 22.Qxc2
22.Bxg7 was a better chance.
22...Rxc2 23.Nd4
23.Bxg7
23...Bxf1 24.Bxg7 Kxg7
24...Rc4 was the obvious move but I became worried that the ending after 25.Bf6 Bd3 26.Re1 could be problematic with Nc6 and e5 coming.  This was probably nonsense: 26...a5 27.f3 a4 28.Nc6 a3 29.e5 is nonetheless not so obvious to the human eye.
25.Nxc2 Bd3 26.Rb2 Bxe4
Black has won a pawn but this ending is not trivial, especially in a time control with a "finite" number of minutes available.
27.Ne3 a5 28.f3 Bf5 29.g4 Bd7
29...Bd3 30.Rb3 Ba6 31.Ra3 Bb5 was maybe more accurate.
30.Nc4 a4 31.Rb7 Bc8 32.Rc7 a3 33.Nxa3 Rxa3 34.Rxc8
after34.rxc8.jpg
I thought this forced sequence was going to lead to a lost rook ending...but rook endings are never simple.
34...Rxf3 35.Rd8 Rxh3 36.Kg2 Rd3
36...Re3 37.Rxd6 Re5 intending ...h5 looked interesting but 38.Kf3 h5 (38...h6 39.Kf4 Rg5 40.Rd8 f5 41.Ke5! and white draws) 39.Kf4 holds.
37.Rxd6 Kh6
37...Kf8! was my first intention, and I probably misevaluated the position resulting from 38.Rd8+ Ke7 39.Rh8 Rxd5 40.Rxh7 Kf6 as drawn 41.Kf3 Ra5 42.Kf4 Ra4+ 43.Kg3 Ra3+! and white is forced to go to the 2nd rank 44.Kg2 (44.Kf4 g5+ 45.Ke4 Rg3) 44...Ra7! 45.Kf3 Kg5 followed by a rook check and ..f6 and Black should win simply.
38.Rf6! Kg5 39.Rxf7 h6 40.Rf3!
I missed this move, after which I realized the game should be a draw, but I had one more trick....
40...Rxd5 41.Kh3 Re5 42.Ra3 Kf4 43.Ra6 Re3+ 44.Kh2 Kg5
after44...Kg5.jpg
45.Rb6?
45.Kg2 and it doesn't seem like Black can make progress.
45...Rf3!
A tricky rook move, now the rook can come to f6 or f4 depending on the situation, and white is not able to save his g-pawn.
46.Kg2 Rf6 47.Rxf6
47.Rb4 Rf4
47...Kxf6 48.Kf2 Ke5 49.Kf3 Kd4 50.Kf4 g5+ 0-1

I drew my final game and clinched clear first. You can see final standings and more photos and details on the event on the official website. 

Hikaru wowed  everybody by playing some incredible time odd blitz in the evening.  Having met and played blitz with many of the world's best, I can say that playing Hikaru, in blitz (or bullet, even more so) is an experience unlike any other.  The speed of calculations is staggering, without mentioning the psychological effect he has of, quite frankly, really wanting to crush you. 

This was the most fun I'd had in a long time at a tournament, and Jamin Gluckie deserves a lot of praise.  I am presenting a few pictures just to give an idea of the length to which he went to give the playing hall a special feel.  I wish some organizers would take note of the G/90+30 secs time control which makes for significantly shorter playing days and allows you to enjoy your time a lot more.

For me this marks the culmination of a busy chess summer in which I took part in four tournaments in two months, more than I had played in in a couple of years prior.  It's great to end the summer on such a positive note, and shows that perhaps a little bit of practice does help.  I don't intend to let the rust settle in again, but for now, I need a couple of weeks off!
 
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