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Hi guys,
Well it might be Easter but there are no bunnies here!
Yes, for this update I effectively ended up selecting the top six ELO averaged games played over the last fortnight with the exception being the intriguing game that we kick off with:

Download PGN of April ’17 Dragon Sicilian games

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Classical Dragon 6 Be2 Bg7 7 Be3 Nc6 8 0-0 0-0 9 Re1 [B73]

In Liduch, F - Bargel, M the game started off as in an old fashioned way of 6.Be2 Bg7 7.Be3 Nc6 8.0-0 0-0 about which I write ‘And so we have the old main line of the Classical variation with the white bishops tucked in on e2 and e3. More modern approaches involve the early retreat of the knight to b3 to facilitate parking the bishop on g5 early doors or even leaving it on c1, prioritising other moves instead. Indeed regulars will know that the early retreat of the other bishop to f1 has also been popular for a while but of course that requires moving the rook. Watch this space!

As for Black, he is now poised to make the thematic break ...d5 and my early WWTD book explained how all of White’s moves aimed at dissuading or preventing that make concessions of their own.

Well, all those moves are then detailed but in fact we get a first for the site in the form of 9.Re1:

In bringing the rook to the e-file this looks to dissuade the thematic break ...d5 although I investigate that possibility anyway. The white knight remains on d4 equally dissuading 9...Be6 and consequently 9...Bd7 is played most in practice here. However it is the sequence 9...a6 10.Qd2 Ng4 11.Bxg4 Bxg4 that hits the board, provoking the comparison with the analogous position without Re1 and ...a6 thrown in. Following 12.f3 Bd7 13.Nxc6 bxc6 14.Bd4 f6 15.Rad1 Qa5 16.b3 c5 17.Be3 chances were equal.

Accelerated Dragadorf 7 f3 b5 8 Qd2 Bb7 9 g4 h6 10 0-0-0 Nbd7 11 h4 [B75]

These days in the Accelerated Dragadorf after 5...g6 6.Be3 a6 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 Bb7 we tend to see the queenside challenge 9 a4 but just when you are awaiting the return of kingside ambition through 9.g4, just like buses two instances of it come along at once! Both encounters in this variation this month see Black responding with 9...h6 looking to halt the g-pawn’s progress and simultaneously prevent a future bishop trading Bh6. It’s always nice to feature members of the 2800 club on the site and after 10.0-0-0 Nbd7 in Caruana, F - Shabalov, A the young American superstar ignored his opponent and persevered with his own offensive plans through 11.h4:

Alexander Shabalov (no slouch himself!) replied with 11...Rc8 and although I don't think anyone could argue that a black rook isn't well placed on this handy half-open file, the question is whether it's worth investing a tempo on right now. The last time we covered this position, I advocated the immediate 11...b4! and if 12.Nce2 then 12...e5 13.Nb3 a5 and I haven't seen anything to change my mind as it's clear that the black rook may find some action on the a-file.

That still should be fine though although following 12.Bd3 b4 13.Nce2 and the thematic 13...e5 14.Nb3 d5 15.exd5 it soon becomes clear why Black should actually recapture with the bishop as through 15...Nxd5?! 16.h5! g5 17.Ng3 Qc7 18.Rhe1 Be7 19.Nf5, frankly Caruana is able to deliver a positional (with tactical elements!) masterpiece. Well, to be fair, most of his moves seemed pretty straightforward but he doesn’t let up in the accuracy department and this game serves as a very good warning for regular Black exponents of the ...e5 and ...d5 concept.

Accelerated Dragadorf 7 f3 b5 8 Qd2 Bb7 9 g4 h6 10 0-0-0 Nbd7 11 a3 [B75]

So, the same variation but after 5...g6 6.Be3 a6 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 Bb7 9.g4 h6 10.0-0-0 Nbd7 in Hovhannisyan, R - Tomazini, Z Black is a tad more cautious and stops the black b-pawn in its tracks through 11.a3:

In this annotation I also revisit White’s other 11th move options (aside from the 11 h4 featured in the above Caruana game) but as far as this encounter goes ultimately the Slovenian IM will no doubt be gutted by the final outcome given the performance he put in against his much higher rated Armenian GM opponent. Indeed his moves were very logical and after 11...Nb6 12.Kb1 Bg7 13.h4 h5 14.g5 Nfd7 15.f4 Nc5 16.Bd3 Nc4 17.Bxc4 bxc4, I really didn’t like the look of the self-pinning 18.Qg2?! that through 18...Rb8 19.Ka2 Qb6 20.Rb1 Nxe4!? 21.Nxe4 Bxd4 22.Bxd4 Qxd4 basically saw Black win a free pawn. Sadly, involving twists and turns, some 55 moves later the point had jumped (or perhaps at this time of year ‘hopped’ might be a more appropriate word!) out of one bag and into the other!

Yugoslav Attack 9 g4 h5 [B76]

After 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.g4 the game Voronkov, D - Denishev, M is only the 2nd time that we have featured 9...h5 in a main game:

This challenging thrust definitely does put the question to White and although 10.gxh5 Nxh5 is probably best, it leaves Black with the better structure. Indeed that was an important feature throughout the game in which after 11.Be2?! (previously we have investigated 11 0-0-0 but clearly here White didn’t want to hang around regards getting in f3-f4 and tackling that knight on h5) 11...Nxd4 12.Bxd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Be6 (The annotation will show why 13...e5!? is more ambitious and probably justifies creating a backward pawn on d6) 14.0-0-0 Qa5 15.Kb1 Rac8 16.Nd5 Bxd5 17.exd5 Qc5 that remained evident in White’s isolated f- and h-pawns.

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 [B76]

Regards the variation 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 14.Na4 I think you'd have to say that this has become the main line (of 9 0-0-0 d5) now with Black here merely needing to decide whether or not to provoke b2-b3 by moving to a5 first before retreating the queen to c7.

Trading queens leading to a positionally inferior endgame is out of the question. and so in Dogan, N - Karaokcu, E we saw 14...Qc7 15.Bc4 Rd8 and only then the relatively rare 16.Qc5:

Although this immediately pins the c6-pawn, Black's knight isn't in danger of being lost yet because of the check on f4. Transpositions to previously investigated options are still possible but in fact 16...Qf4+ 17.Kb1 Bf5 18.Bb3 then proceeded to take on independent significance. White is certainly okay here but it is rather shocking how quickly things manage to go so badly wrong for him. See for yourself!

Yugoslav Attack 8 Bc4 Nc6 9 Bb3 Na5 [B76]

The game Villanueva, M - Gatti, J is an offbeat Yugoslav Attack which at first sees White being sneaky after 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Bb3 but then Black getting creative through 9...Na5:

White ploughs-on on the kingside through 10.h4 and after 10...Nxb3 11.axb3 Black attempted to react in the middle with 11...d5. His plan of opening up the centre was thwarted by 12.e5 but in 12...Nh5 13.g4 Ng3 14.Rg1 Bxe5 15.f4 Bxd4 16.Qxd4 e5 Black had certainly found a way to liven things up there! White missed a couple of improvements along the way in 17.fxe5 Ne4 18.Nxd5 Qxh4+ 19.Bf2 Nxf2 20.Qxf2 Qg5 21.Qf6 Qxf6 22.Nxf6+ Kg7 23.g5 Bf5 which had seen Black equalise before blowing it, and later having the error returned to donate the half point. Not sure it’s going to prove that theoretically important, but fascinating stuff all the same!

Okey doke people, I will see you all again soon!

Best wishes, Chris

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