Eric Hansen and The Walrus

December 2, 2017

The Walrus is a Canadian magazine, like Harper’s or The New Yorker, which publishes articles in-depth. “No one ignores a walrus”.

It has recently had an article by Sasha Chapin entitled:

Canada’s Bid to Create a World Chess Champion

Montreal’s Eric Hansen is a self-described Chessbrah, but he could also be the best player this country has ever had

A couple of paragraphs to give you the flavor of the profile:

When eric hansen isn’t at the club or at the gym, he can often be found on the online-streaming platform Twitch, where more than 15,000 subscribers know him as the face of the channel “Chessbrah.” There, he performs barely believable feats of chess mastery. Hansen, twenty-five, primarily trades in “bullet” games—high-octane speed chess in which each player has one minute total to make all of their moves. He’s got a knack for what enthusiasts call “calculation,” the brute-force brainpower that allows players to examine many long chains of potential moves near simultaneously. Sometimes he’ll win in as little as fifteen seconds.

Hansen’s challengers range from beginner nobodies to the world’s greatest players. On occasion, he’ll add layers of complexity, like trying to win while holding his breath. When Hansen succeeds, he beats his chest, or pounds his desk, or throws his baseball cap across the room. Sometimes he makes angry horse noises. It should be noted that Hansen wins often—he is a grandmaster and could become the best chess player in Canada.

At Wijk aan Zee:

But later, when facing off against Sopiko Guramishvili, the lowest-ranked player, Hansen was sweating. Guramishvili had aimed a battery of pieces right at his king, and defeat was unsettlingly, and unexpectedly, plausible. Hansen was playing the Grunfeld Defence, letting his opponent’s pieces occupy the centre of the board, then stabbing at them from odd angles. It’s a tricky strategy. You need to know a lot of what chess players call “theory”—sequences of moves discovered by other players in previous games. This is one of the quirks of chess: being a great player requires rigorous study as well as quick thinking. And, as it turned out, Guramishvili seemed to have studied the theory more than Hansen had. The result was like playing Jeopardy! with someone who had been fed the questions.

These factors put Canadian players at a significant disadvantage. A Russian child who’d shown Hansen’s skill would have received harsh instruction from weathered grandmasters. If he’d been Armenian, he would have been rewarded with a government salary once he became an established player. In Canada, however, Hansen must fend for himself, which makes it difficult for him to stay motivated. Consequently, he exists sort of half in and half out of the chess world, studying intensely sometimes, partying intensely at other times, and travelling to occasional contests in places like Azerbaijan, winning $3,000 here, €1,000 there.

A walrus-like article. What do you think?