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When you have a favourite opening system - one that feels rather fishy but always brings you good results - it is a good idea not to play it against too strong an opponent. Once its deficiencies have been exposed, you will find your pet opening is never the same again. Dubious systems demand total trust from the people playing them.

The Latvian grandmaster Edvins Gengis will surely, for that very reason, regret his choice of opening against Garry Kasparov in the Mikhail Tal memorial Tournament in Riga last weekend. After White's 8.Kh1, the normal replies are 8...Be7 or 8...Bb4 or 8...d6. The extravagant 8...Nxd4 9.Qxd4 Bc5 10.Qd3 h5?! is an old favourite of the Polgar sisters. Continuing with b5, Bb7 and Ng4, keeping 0-0-0 in reserve until the king needs to escape from the centre, Black's plan is to launch a direct K-side attack.

Kasparov's 11.Bg5 caused Gengis to have second thoughts. After 11...Ng4, White has a very promising exchange sacrifice with 12.f4 Nf2+ 13.Rxf2 Bxf2 14.e5 with Ne4 to follow. The bishop on g5 emphasises Black's problems on the dark squares.

Kasparov's middle-game play was exemplary in its logical simplicity. The exchanges of knights and bishops had the paradoxical effect of eliminating all Black's hopes of counterplay while apparently not lessening White's own attacking potential. With Q-side castling out of the question and White threatening to barge down the f-file, Black had no alternative to 19...0-0, but he must have known that the king would not long survive.

After 20.Bf6! Black cannot accept the sacrifice: 20...gxf6 21.Rg3+ Kh7 22.fxe6+ or 21...Kh8 22.Qe2 lead to quick mates. 20...Qb5 was neatly met by 21.Rg3 when 21...Qxd3 22.Rxg7+ Kh8 23.Rg5+ Kh7 24.Rxh5+ is mate next move.

White: G. Kasparov

Black: E. Gengis

1 e4 c5 13 e5 Nd5

2 Nf3 e6 14 Nxd5 Bxd5

3 d4 cxd4 15 a4 Qc6

4 Nxd4 Nc6 16 Bf3 Bxf3

5 Nc3 Qc7 17 Rxf3 bxa4

6 Be2 a6 18 f5 Rb8

7 0-0 Nf6 19 Raf1 0-0

8 Kh1 Nxd4 20 Bf6 Qb5

9 Qxd4 Bc5 21 Rg3 g6

10 Qd3 h5 22 Qd1 exf5

11 Bg5 b5 23 Rxf5 Rb6

12 f4 Bb7 24 Qxh5 resigns

Leading scores with one round left to play in Riga: Kasparov 7, Ivanchuk 61/2; Anand 6; Short and Kramnik 51/2.

William Hartston