Staying loyal to one's favourite openings has a good deal to be said for it: quite apart from their giving you the feeling that you are playing on home ground, you also learn from experience and develop a proper feel for the types of position they lead to. One can, however, take loyalty too far.

The diagram position is reached after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.0-0-0 h6 9.Be3 Be7 10.f4 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 b5 12.Qe3 Qc7 13.e5 dxe5 14.fxe5 Nd7 15.Ne4 Bb7 16.Nd6+ Qxd6 17.exd6 Bg5 18.Qxg5 hxg5 19.Bxg7 Rh4 20.Bd4 f5. According to theory, Black's pressure against g2 and chances of surrounding the pawn on d6 add up to adequate compensation for loss of his pawn.

In the first round of the Madrid tournament, the game Short-San Segundo continued 21.h3 Rc8 22.Rg1 Be4 23.c3 Rc6 24.Be3 g4 25.Bf2 Rh7 26.hxg4 fxg4 27.Be2 Bf5 28.Bg3 Nf6 29.Rd4 Rc5 30.Rgd1 e5 31.Rb4 Ne4 32.Be1 Rd7 33.a4 bxa4 34.Rxa4 a5 35.c4 Rxd6 36.Rxd6 Nxd6 37.Rxa5 Rxa5 38.Bxa5 and White won with his extra pawn.

San Segundo, however, convinced himself that the opening was not to blame. He had, after all, won back the d-pawn as planned. It was just bad timing that led to his losing a Q-side pawn in the process. So two rounds later, he found himself in the same position after 20 moves as Black against Judit Polgar.

This time the game continued: 21.Bf2 Rh7 22.h4 Nf6 23.Bd3! g4 (23...Bxg2 24.Rhg1 Bf3 25.Rde1 is good for White) 24.Rhe1 Kd7 25.g3 Bd5 26.b3 Kxd6 27.c4 bxc4 28.bxc4 Rc7 29.Kb2 Rb8+ 30.Ka1 Bf3 31.Bxf5+! Bxd1 32.Rxe6+! Kd7 33.Rb6+ Ke7 34.Rxb8 Rxc4 35.Be3 Nd5 36.Bg5+ Kd6 37.h5 Bc2 38.Rc8 resigns. After 38...Rxc8 39.Bxc8 White wins the g-pawn or queens his h-pawn.

It's time for San Segundo to find another opening.

Comments