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It’s February’s update and no ‘Hikaru hiccups’ with ‘Nakamura’s knack’ of ... winning with the Dragon!
It’s simply wonderful having one of the World’s best on Dragon duty and wow he doesn’t disappoint! Add England’s very own Super GM Luke McShane to the mix and another possible future World Champion and our favourite opening seems to be in very good hands!

Download PGN of February ’18 Dragon Sicilian games

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Classical Dragon 6.Be2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Bg5 Nc6 9.Nb3 Be6 10.Re1 Rc8 11.Bf1 [B70]

6.Be2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Bg5 Nc6 9.Nb3 Be6 10.Re1 saw White approach the Karpov system with a modern tint i.e. forgetting about a quick f2-f4 in favour of searching for e-file action. However, rather than White being able to drop his knight into d5, 10...Rc8 11.Bf1 h6 12.Bf4 d5 saw Black get his central pawn break in first:

As my notes indicate, 13 Nc5 is probably most challenging here but although I suspect that is still okay for Black, instead the lame 13.exd5?! Nxd5 14.Nxd5 Bxd5 15.c3 e5 16.Be3 b6 17.Qc1 Qh4!? Left Black making the running with 18.f3 Rfd8 19.Bf2 Qf6 20.Nd2 Qd6 21.Ne4 Qe7 22.Rd1 Kh7 23.Qe3 f5 24.Nd2 Qf7 25.b3 h5 26.Rac1 Rd7 27.Qe1 Rcd8 28.Bh4 Rc8 29.Bc4 Bh6 30.Bxd5 Rxd5 31.Rb1 g5 32.Bf2 g4 clearly resulting in Black having a kingside initiative. Alas the rapid play nature of the game created a somewhat random element from here on in which saw this Andriasian, Z - Nakamura, Hi encounter go ‘off piste’ on several occasions from here on in and end rather bizarrely. In truth I might not have featured this game had it not involved the talented American who rather than just a day tripper, has suddenly become a leading Dragon exponent!

Classical Dragon 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Ng4 [B72]

Huschenbeth, N - Mista, A is the first of two games this month featuring the once trendy (but still clearly on people’s minds!) Classical Dragon with long castles. In fact we had seen all of 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Ng4 10.Bxg4 Bxg4 11.f3 Bd7 12.Nxc6 bxc6 13.Bh6 Qa5 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.h4 h5 on the site in the past before. 16.e5 brought us a familiar idea but in terms of a main game, in a different position:

This e-pawn is out of bounds and whilst 16...d5 17.g4 Rh8 18.Qg5 Kf8 19.a3 Be6?! 20.Ne2 Ke8 21.Nd4 Kd7 left White with the upper hand, he struggled to come up with a good plan to expose the black king and after 22.Rd3?! c5 23.Nxe6 fxe6 24.c4 Qa6 25.Rc3 d4 26.Rd1 Rab8 27.Qxg6 Rbg8 28.Qe4 hxg4 29.fxg4 Rxh4 30.Rg3 Qxc4+ 31.Rc3 Qd5 32.Qxd5+ exd5 33.Rxc5 Rgxg4 34.Rxd5+ Ke6 35.Ra5 Re4 36.Rxa7 Rxe5 it was Black who had emerged with the favourable endgame.

Classical Dragon 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Bd7 10.f3 Qa5 [B72]

Regards the strong player encounter Piorun, K - Petrosian, TL again in the aggressive long castles Clasical line, did you even know that 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Bd7 10.f3 was a variation?

Indeed this is all a little weird as this is the sort of opening position that I wouldn't be surprised to see in a Weekend minor tournament! Basically White has played a 9 0-0-0 Yugoslav Attack and after Black has responded with the less regarded 9...Bd7, White has deployed the rather premature 10 Be2.

Of course to take it seriously we do then have to bear in mind the move order through which this scenario has actually arisen! Note 10 f3 is only second in outings to the getting on with it 10 h4 where arguably in disposing with the f-pawn advance White is staying true to the idea of the system.

Anyway we had some fun from here as rather than allowing Be2 to be put to good use as it can be in the ...Rc8 and ...Ne5 systems, we saw 10...Qa5 11.Nb3 Qc7 12.h4 a5 13.a3 b5!? 14.Nxb5 Qb7 15.a4 Rfc8 16.Kb1 Ne5 17.h5 Nc4 18.Bxc4 Rxc4 19.hxg6 fxg6 20.e5 Ne8. Fascinating stuff until White inexplicably went too passive with 21.Na3? and Black definitely moved on top through 21...Rb4! 22.Nc5 Rxb2+ 23.Ka1 dxc5 24.Qxd7 Qxd7 25.Rxd7 Bxe5.

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 e6 11.h4 Qc7 12.h5 Nxh5 13.g4 Nxd4 14.Bxd4 Bxd4 15.Rxd4 Qf4+ [B76]

Okay so maybe not one for the purists, but I’m afraid I was unable to resist the entertainment that Adnani, M - McShane, L from the World Blitz event brings us.

In terms of theory, actually a while back we investigated 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 e6 (the forgotten playable alternative to 10...e5) 11.h4 Qc7 12.h5 Nxh5 13.g4!? but this thrilling quick-paced marathon(!) brings things to a whole new level! Play continued 13...Nxd4 14.Bxd4 Bxd4 15.Rxd4 Qf4+ 16.Kb1 and now 16...Qxf3:

Originally a Najdorf player, I enjoy watching Luke deploy the Dragon from time to time and here he had no qualms about allowing his queen to do all the dirty work! If you read my notes you’ll see why I’ve reached the conclusion that 17 Qh4!? could be tricky here but the game saw 17.Bg2? Qxg4 18.Bh3 Qf4 19.Ne2 Qe5 20.Qh4 dxe4 21.Rxe4 Qf6 22.Qe1 Bd7 when objectively Black was just winning. As you’ll see though; it wasn’t to be quite that straightforward!

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 e5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.Bc4 Be6 14.Kb1 Rb8 [B76]

Following 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 e5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.Bc4 Be6 14.Kb1 the game Duda, J - Nakamura, H deviates from last month’s Carlsen-Jones with 14...Rb8 (rather than 14...Re8) although we have seen all of 15.Ne4 Qc7 16.Bc5 Rfd8 17.g4 h6 18.h4 f5 19.gxf5 gxf5 on the site before. Indeed it is mainly in 20.Ng3 (rather than 20 Nf2) that we start on a different path:

The super-talented American naturally responds with 20...Qf7 to cover some key areas when 21.Bb3 Rd7 22.Ne2 Rbd8 23.h5 Kh7 all looks very reasonable. He clearly believes that Black’s position is fine but nevertheless the way he seemingly outclasses his 2700+ opponent after 24.Qa5 Nf4 25.Rxd7 Rxd7 26.Nxf4 exf4 27.Qe1 Bd5 28.Bb4?! c5! is incredible. In fact I won’t ruin the rest of it for you but let’s just say that White is ruthlessly punished for a couple of ‘plausible’ inaccuracies, consequently dismissed with such style. I don’t know what the future holds but right now it is simply marvellous having Hikaru batting for the Dragon side!

Yugoslav Attack Main Line Soltis 12.h4 h5 13.Bg5 Rc5 14.Kb1 b5 15 Bxf6 [B78]

5...g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.h4 h5 13.Bg5 Rc5 14.Kb1 b5 had seen us reach a main line Soltis variation:

but with White now eschewing the more common 15 g4 and 15 Rhe1 in favour of 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.f4 With his bishop out of the way, White is hoping for a fruitful pawn storm but 16...Nc4 17.Bxc4 Rxc4 18.e5 Bg7! 19.Nf3 b4 20.Nd5 a5 21.Rhe1 Bg4 22.exd6 exd6 23.Ne7+ Kh8 24.f5 gxf5 had seen Black correctly respond calmly in De Coverly, R - Royal, S I make no excuses for including this game in an update otherwise packed with encounters IMs and GMs. Play continued 25.Qxd6? Qxd6 26.Rxd6 Re4! when the wonderfully talented 8 year old soon closed out a winning endgame demonstrating amazing maturity! I can only hope that should young Shreyas make it the top, he still be playing the Dragon alongside the likes of Hikaru and won’t by that time have switched to the Berlin Defence!

Yes, a magnificent 6/6 for the Dragon (might not always be that way!). Thanks for reading! Chris

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