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Reviews

Winning With The Dragon, Chris Ward: 1st Published B.T. Batsford 1994.

Don't know much about the guy who wrote it, but its a thoroughly enjoyable read. Instructive, entertaining and especially useful at propping up wobbly tables! Buy it, read it and then buy it again!


Play The Sicilian Dragon: Edward Dearing, Gambit Publications Ltd 2004

They say that you can't tell a book by its cover but as soon as I saw the illustration on the front of this nicely sized text, I could tell it was going to be a good one! I like Eddy and I like his book. In all probability Dragon aficionados are going to acquire every text going on their favourite opening anyway but in my opinion this will make a very useful addition to the library. The book has a very nice lay-out that makes it very user friendly and the introductory pages are particularly interesting. I suppose given that the author says a lot of lovely things about me it is only natural that I should return the compliment but the fact is that clearly an awful lot of work has gone into the completion of this project, including plenty of thorough and new analysis.

A large percentage of this book is spent looking at the 'Soltis variation' and though I have never claimed to be an expert on that, I am reliably informed that the coverage there is first class. My main concern is that these days that could be rendered almost irrelevant given the increasing tendency of White players to employ 12 Kb1 (i.e. after the Yugoslav Attack 9 Bc4 Bd7 10 0-0-0 Rc8 11 Bb3 Ne5). Dearing however does at least dedicate a whole chapter on this 'Modern Emphasis On Prophylaxis' and it makes for riveting reading.

Whilst meeting h4 with ...h5 gets the biggest billing in the 9 Bc4 department, the other Black approaches are touched upon although it is interesting to note that in his write up of ...Qa5, Dearing doesn't even mention the Bg5 system that IM Andrew Martin has now suggested is the refutation (see Feb 2005 grab-bag)! Perhaps a rare criticism is that Eddy tries to take on too much work, leaving the book as more than a 'repertoire' but not suffice for a 'complete'. It's kind of like he is providing the reader with a Dragon repertoire but is providing key outside variations that could be vital to its survival. The drawback of such an approach is that inevitably things are going to be missed out. In 9 0-0-0 Yugoslav Attack for example, after 9...Nxd4 10 Bxd4 Be6 11 Kb1 Qc7 the main interest is naturally with the white h-pawn razz that has figured so prominently on this website, and with the more restrained h-pawn and g-pawn in tandem attack. Perhaps they are the most critical variations but surely there should have been some mention of the positional approach 12 Nd5. It's always the case that lines develop and progress after books have been published and having myself been criticised for omitting things from my 1994 text 'Winning With The Dragon' that have only comparatively recently turned up(!) I have a certain sympathy for authors that are unjustifiably panned in this manner. However although Eddy couldn't possibly have been aware of Kiril Georgiev's favouring of this move (detailed in the January 2005 update), it's not exactly as though 12 Nd5 is new and in the past it has been wheeled out by some pretty useful players.

To be fair, in the introduction Dearing describes this book as 'slightly more expansive than a typical repertoire book' and anyway why shouldn't he put in it what he wants. Anything over and above a repertoire is surely just a bonus for the reader. My only other real criticism that I had noted was the occasional frustrating phrase as 'xyz has long been known to be bad' without going into further detail. However as I can't seem to locate an example of that now (and besides as I've said in such a huge topic of the Dragon, you are going to have to draw the line somewhere) I think I'll let that go and simply congratulate Mr Dearing.

Great book, definitely worth getting!


Experts Vs the Sicilian: Quality Books; Edited by Jacob Aagaard and John Shaw - Buy the book here.

I actually quite like books that have a different contributor for each chapter as theoretically at least, each writer has put a lot of hard work and dedication into their piece. Every author starts off a book with good intentions but occasionally one can kind of tell in chess books that a writer has run stale of ideas or was possibly speeding up to reach a deadline. Not of course that I am speaking from my own experiences(!) but with just a few pages to produce each, that should not have been the case with the contributors here.

Anyway this nicely put together text essentially has a chapter on how to defeat each of the Sicilian variations. Well, actually, strictly speaking, it gives an expert in each line the opportunity to detail how they might take on the system. Of relevance to this site are the sections on the Dragon and the Accelerated Dragon. When I first saw who was rooting for White in these sections, the first comparison that sprung to mind was of those TV programs on 'magician's secrets revealed'! That though is a little harsh. When I give simultaneous displays and am White I tend to offer my opponents the choice (within reason!) of what move I start with. Often club players rejoice in the chance to play the Dragon against me. That is always good fun but in all fairness both Mikhail Golubev and Peter Heine-Nielsen, whilst experts in their respective Sicilians, are also main line 1 e4 players. Knowing the sort of meagre royalties that are offered these days, I also wouldn't say it is a case of selling out and in fact for those that are simply seeking 'the truth' this makes excellent reading material.

Getting to the nitty gritty, first let me say a few words on Nielsen's chapter on the Accelerated Dragon;

Peter is an author on the Accelerated Dragon himself and playing both sides of the opening suggests that he understands the nuances involved. This is never going to be as critical as the standard Dragon though as nobody is ever going to dispute that the Maroczy Bind provides White with a space advantage!

Specifically after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 g6 5 c4 Bg7 he recommends 6 Nc2 but at the end of the day his main deviation from this site's annotated Karjakin-Tiviakov comes in the form of 12 Rc1!? rather than 12 Rb1. Remember that this review is being written for the December 2004 update and the Danish GM's section may be referred to in future updates.

Whereas Peter is allocated just 10 pages to write off the Accelerated Dragon, GM Mikhail Golubev has 47 to enable readers to tackle the Dragon. The 'easy guide to the Dragon' author recommends the Yugoslav Attack (no surprise there!) and whilst plumping for 9 0-0-0, he also discusses early Black deviations. Amongst those is the trendy Dragon/Najdorf hybrid where after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6 6 Be3 Bg7 7 f3 a6 8 Qd2 Nbd7 he opts for 9 Bc4 rather than Shirov's preferred (at least in his recent game with English IM Simon Williams) 9 0-0-0.

Regular subscribers will recall my annotations to Parligras, M - Cebalo, M (9th HIT Open Nova Gorica SLO 2004) which was prompted by much debate about the now very topical line 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6 6 Be3 Bg7 7 f3 0-0 8 Qd2 Nc6 9 0-0-0 Nxd4 10 Bxd4 Be6 11 Kb1 Qc7 12 h4 Rfc8 13 h5 Qa5 14 hxg6 hxg6 15 a3 Rab8 16 Bd3 Bc4 on the Dragon forum. Golubev's writing is very honest and so much so that it appears that he doesn't actually prove a significant advantage here and indeed a lot of Black's defences are based on his own recommendations for the second player! Mikhail's section is worth the admission price on its own although having read through most of it I will say that Dragon players don't need to panic just yet!

In the past I have been annoyed by the odd rare remark about my own books by reviewers that clearly haven't really read what I'd written. Not having gone from front to back on this text I don't want to be a hypocrite. However as far as I can make out there is just a little bit in the minor lines chapter in the back about the 'Hyper-Accelerated Dragon' and nothing at all on the Semi-Accelerated Dragon. A minor omission though and overall this kind of new look 'Beating the Sicilian' is a worthwhile addition to anyone's collection.


Winning With The Sicilian Dragon 2; by Chris Ward: published by BT Batsford Ltd 2001


Basically not bad! Obviously I'm biased but I'm very happy with this text which is much more than just an update of my earlier work (Winning With The Dragon). There are plenty of diagrams in the generally very entertaining games selection, making the book a very visual one. I worked pretty hard on the project and included much of my home analysis in order to put a new slant on already available theory. The book reads well (so I'm told!) and has a chapter at the end on tips in the Anti-Sicilians. This might be a useful addition but if there is a criticism it's that the front cover promises a 'complete repertoire against 1 e4 for the attacking player'. This is an exaggeration as the reader will still have to look elsewhere in order to completely get to grips with the likes of the Sicilian 2 c3.

I never lie about variations nor do I try to sweep lines under the carpet. Things will change though and whatever texts appear in the future, the true Dragon enthusiast should always continue to study their pet system at home.

There are plenty of moves in this book but there are lots of words too!

Ultimate Dragon vols. 1 & 2; by Eduard Gufeld & Oleg Stetsko: published by BT Batsford Ltd 2001


Cynics would no doubt suggest that the Ultimate (I wonder what adjectives will come next?) Dragon is merely the 'Complete Dragon' (the same authors 1997 text) broken down into 2 volumes. Probably that is a little harsh although close inspection shows that there is a remarkable similarity! There have been some more recent games added and thus merged into the theory but one wonders whether it is fair to ask the buyer to shed an extra £16.99 (for volume 1 or £14.99 for volume 2). Presumably volume 1 (the Yugoslav Attack) will prove more popular than volume 2 (the other stuff!) and the reader will have to get his head around all that variation 3Bb1 or 2Ab1c stuff again. Okay perhaps it's a little unfair for me to be sarcastic in that department. True it can be off-putting if there are so many lines to get through but when you are writing about every variation, there has to be some user-friendly indexing system.

Frankly I wouldn't like to write a 'complete' book on the Dragon as there is just so much to be done. Giving an assessment based on limited practical encounters is then very dangerous and leaves the author open to plenty of criticism.

It is annoying to see the same old references time after time and it has been observed that one or two key lines have been overlooked. That said I guess it's worth including these books in your library if only to compare with other available material.

Sicilian Dragon- The Yugoslav Attack; by Attila Schneider: published by Caissa KFT 2000

One slightly annoying thing about this book is the title. I ordered it and only discovered when it arrived that it covered just the 9 Bc4 variations. It would've be nice to have known that before buying it, but yes you're right I probably still would have got it anyway!

I find very amusing the first chapter entitled 'Why I have not written a foreword to this book?' This begins "On the one hand this is unnecessary for such a successful book. My second reason is that a forward, when written by the author leads unavoidably to exhibitionism, of that I'm quite sure. As I have worked on this book for eight to ten hours daily for more than half a year I do not want to give the impression in any way that I, by this medium, am praising the work too much. My facts that the most recent material has been collaborated without error, that the older and current state of theory is reflected faultlessly and that the variations analysed by myself have an irrefutable truth do not need to be brought to the reader's attention-the reader can recognise this in any case." So no self praise there then!

Don't worry you can expect plenty of author exhibitionism in "Winning With The Sicilian Dragon 2"! On the content, it seems pretty thorough, although I wouldn't say delivered in a particularly user friendly manner. There is a funny variations/ subvariations layout that I for one took a bit of time to adapt to. Of course when the intention is to deliver so many lines (the author isn't big on small talk) he has my sympathies as it's not clear what the best solution is. If we are to believe the opening words then much work has gone into this book.

The author certainly has his own views. On page 81 he gives a variation: 20 Bg7? Bxg7 21 Nxg7 Reb8? Clearly better for Black. Nunn-Ward 1988. Well on this site I annotated that 1998 encounter: 20 Bg7!! Bxg7 21 Nxg7 Reb8 (what else?) with a winning position for White. Quite a contrast then but I'm still sticking to my view! I will however be reading it further to see if I can find any further discrepancies. Regarding home analysis you may have done, I suggest you do the same.

Secrets Of The Sicilian Dragon, Eduard Gufeld & Eric Schiller: Cardoza Publishing 1998.

The first thing that confuses me here is why the first edition is dated 1998 and yet I'd never heard of it. I was quite excited when I ordered this book recently but I guess things must take a bit of time to filter through here to England. Alternatively somehow it escaped my attention.

I am a bit loathe to say anything bad about this book seeing as it makes many complimentary remarks about me. However I wouldn't be doing my job properly if I didn't tell you what was on my mind!

With the title as it is, I was in eager anticipation of lots of home brewed analysis that would overturn many current assessments. Alas there is probably only really one annotation that does that in a chapter entitled 'Don't believe everything you read'. Then again perhaps you shouldn't be believing that either or come to think of it this too! Sorry, I don't know where that leaves you then!

If I had written a book on secrets of the Sicilian Dragon then I may well have provided the reader with some new juicy variations that might catch their theoretically well prepared opponents off guard. On the other hand I do like to keep some 'weapons' to myself until I've had the opportunity to use them, plus it would be a very short book! I was hoping not to see all the old references regurgitated again, but although it is a little guilty there, the book does at least have a novel layout. It discusses plans rather than specific move orders, which makes it a little easier on the eye. Unfortunately as we know, Dragon buffs do love their 'line B21A32' as it makes them feel secure about not getting blown away in 15 moves!

I quite like the breakdown of sections within the book although I can't help the feeling that sometimes the authors are clutching at straws a little. Having demonstrated nine tactical themes for White, we move onto ten (naturally!) for Black. These include the ...d5 break and the sacrifice on g4 (fair enough), but what's with 'sacrificing a knight on c4' (i.e. to a white pawn on b3). Hardly a regular occurrence in the Dragon and if that deserves a place, I wonder what doesn't!

There is some interesting analysis in the chapter entitled 'The Dragon Hall Of Fame'. Yes I'm in it(!), although I thought they might have been able to use a more recent game of mine. I'm not really moaning though. Of course you'll have to add this to your collection and leave room on the shelf for more to follow.

Easy Guide To The Dragon, Mikhail Golubev: 1st Published Everyman Publishers plc. 1999.

Though I was a bit speculative of the title (I mean the Dragon is hardly the easiest of openings to handle), I was nevertheless very much looking forward to reading this book. Golubev is one of the World's leading Dragon experts and I have admired many of the games that he plays with either side of the opening.

Explaining the Dragon he says:- "Black's idea is very simple- the bishop is developed to an active position from where it exerts pressure on the squares d4, c3 and b2. After ...Bg7 and castling, Black prepares counterplay in the centre and on the queenside with the use of the h8-a1 diagonal and the c-file."

A nice insight, but to my mind this kind of advice is in too short a supply. Many will rush out and buy the book because in general those that come into contact with the opening are religious about collecting information regarding it. I won't put anyone off doing so because I simply accept that that's the way it is. After all most may be happy if even one game is won due to it's acquisition and vice verse games lost due to its absence are unthinkable! However I feel that the author tried to cover too much in too little space, almost attempting to make it more of a 'complete' Dragon book. I personally would have rather read his own analysis, thoughts and views on fewer lines rather than the same old references being churned out with numerous variations ending with no comment whatsoever. No doubt if a reader goes through it thoroughly there will be some tasty morsels uncovered and if you like, some previously unseen footage, but essentially what disappointed me was the lack of prose outside of the introduction. Clearly the Dragon is much about tactical variations, but I can't really see how this book fits in to the 'Easy Guide' series.