A Russki, an Aussie and the Duke of Plaza Toro

A Russki, an Aussie and the Duke of Plaza Toro

Jul 20, 2008, 3:49 PM 2,607 Reads 2 Comments

When my Russian friend Pavel asked me to write about the Spanish Opening I needed a wrinkle because I had never played it—never as white anyway—so I thought I'd ask that celebrated, cultivated, underrated Spanish nobleman, the Duke of Plaza Toro, to help out. The Duke was an intelligent sort of guy whose claim to fame was that he led his regiment from behind because he found it less exciting.  (That's him on the right, as played by Frank Wyatt.)

It seemed appropriate to look at some of those times this very fine opening was misplayed and allowed black's counterattack to send white, like the erstwhile Duke, into ignominious retreat.

The Noah's Ark trap is so old, and so well known that I'll pass it by here but there are lots of other opportunities for white to lose his way.

If Alexander Alekhine could drop a piece it could happen to anybody. In the diagrammed position from the 1914 St. Petersburg tournament Alekhine was a little careless against the great Joseph Blackburne. Blackburne's own king was exposed but he saw how he could win a piece.


Blackburne probably thought the game was secure but Alekhine wasn't one of the Immortals for nothing. Although he never regained the piece, he was able to salvage a draw with two pawns against Blackburne's lone knight.

The next game was played between Herman Keetbaas and Roberto Miele at Trieste in 2006. Keetbaas trusted his queen to defend the knight on d4 but, like the Fleeing Duke, she gave up at first sight of Black's cavalry. The only square she could occupy and still protect her knight was b4 but the pawn fork on c5 would soon have her running for cover.

The next one is a spectacular attack by Black. His play wasn't the most accurate attack, but is certainly entertaining. White blundered in capturing Black's knight sacrifice on g2 (13 Nxg4! would probably have won him the game) but he faltered in the face of hostilities.


Finally, here's a game played in Pavel's home town—Moscowbut a few years before he was born. Evgeni Dragomarezkij was simply too strong and crushed White in fourteen moves.


The lesson to be learned from this? Even though you're playing one of the most dangerous attacking openings it doesn't pay to take too many liberties until you've finished developing. Black has teeth too.


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