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A belated Merry Xmas everyone and don’t worry I haven’t forgotten your gifts; Yep new ideas, new debates, new adventures and thank God, a new year!

Download PGN of December ’20 Dragon Sicilian games

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Accelerated Dragon 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Nd5 9.Nxd5 cxd5 10.Qxd5 Rb8 [B34]

Although strictly speaking 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Bg7 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 comes under the classification of a Semi-Accelerated Dragon, I only really see it that way without the inclusion of ...Bg7 and Be3 where this whole trading knights on c6 and following up with e4-e5 concept has a much better reputation. Nevertheless even with the inclusion of those moves, recently there has been a resurgence in this option for White with even very strong players trying to prove an advantage.

As this is such an important line for Accelerated Dragon protagonists reluctant to play an earlier ...d6 to prevent this as that would allow a Yugoslav Attack, there’s two games in this variation this month.

The first Sevian, S - Taher, Y sees Black deploy the energetic pawn sacrifice 8...Nd5 9.Nxd5 cxd5 10.Qxd5 Rb8, in this encounter met by the immediate 11.0-0-0:

Plenty of deviations are considered in the annotation to 11...Bb7 12.Qc5 0-0 13.c3 Rc8 14.Qxa7 Bc6 15.Qb6 Qe8!? which soon becomes fun after 16.f4 d6 17.Bd4 Rb8 18.Qa6 Ra8 19.Qc4 d5 20.Qc5 Rxa2 Theoretically quite interesting as suggested by the talented young American/Armenian’s perseverance in this line with the game itself an entertaining swinger!

Accelerated Dragon 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng8 [B34]

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 the alternative to the pawn sac 8...Ng8 is actually two and a half times more popular in practice and with better results:

Regards returning home, obviously the hokey cokey isn't ideal (albeit it is New Year!) but although Black loses tempi, the e5-pawn is a target and Black arguably has the better structure. The c6-pawn controls the d5-square and a black rook will undoubtedly look to make the most of the half-open b-file. Again suggesting a resurgence, this position was reached 5 times this month and hence why the game Pridorozhni, A - Savchenko, B is included in this month’s update. That ran 9.Bd4 Qa5 10.f4 Rb8 11.e6 Nf6 12.exf7+ with plenty of discussion here over blocking or taking. Well 12...Kxf7 13.Qd2 Rxb2 14.Bc4+ d5 15.Bb3 occurred when the black rook found itself a little trapped behind enemy lines with a little accuracy required to either safeguard it or sacrifice it well. Alas 15...c5?! wasn’t what the Doctor ordered with 16.Be5 Rxb3 17.cxb3 Bb7 18.Rc1 Qa6 19.Qe2 Qc6 20.Na4 c4 21.0-0 clearly being in White’s favour.

Dragon Fianchetto System 6.g3 Nc6 7.Nde2 Bd7 8.Bg2 Qc8 [B70]

Congratulations to my ex Dragons site co-host Gawain on recently becoming the European online blitz Champion with one of his victories being against a Latvian legend of the chess board. Yes, I couldn’t not include the game Shirov, A - Jones, G in the update as although 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.g3 isn’t my favourite system to look at, at least 6...Nc6 7.Nde2 Bd7 8.Bg2 Qc8 9.h3 Bg7 10.g4 suggested things would get interesting (and we weren’t to be disappointed!).

Previously I remarked on the possibility of this move as 'a bit loose' but clearly Alexei either disagreed or decided it was ‘worth a punt’ in a faster time limit encounter! I really liked Gawain’s play throughout the encounter with 10...0-0 11.0-0 Rb8 12.Re1 b5 13.Ng3 b4! 14.Nce2 a5 15.Rb1 a4 16.b3 Qa6 17.Bb2 Rfc8 18.Nf4 e5! 19.Bf1 Qb6 20.Ng2 leaving White’s pieces looking awkward and 20...Nd4 21.Ne3 Be6 22.g5 Nd7 23.h4 h5 24.gxh6 Bxh6 25.Bc4 Nf6 26.Bxe6 Nxe6 27.Nc4 Rxc4 28.bxc4 Bf4 excellent compensation for the exchange.

Okay so it wasn’t a totally faultless victory as to add to the entertainment value, for a brief period the tide had turned. Ultimately though even at the faster pace, a nice instructive win justifying my previous assessment!

Dragon 6.Be3 Nc6 7.f3 h5 8.Qd2 Nxd4 9.Bxd4 Bh6 [B72]

Well Mr Shirov, doesn’t have to wait long to get back on the horse as the game Shirov, A - Matinian, N sees his fortune reversed this time in the trendy new variation 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Nc6 7.f3 h5 8.Qd2 Nxd4 9.Bxd4 Bh6. Previously here we’ve featured games with 10 Be3 and 10 Qf2 and it was only a matter of time before the logical 10.Bb5+ would cross our path:

After 10...Bd7 I had previously observed why I think 11 Qe2 should be met by 11...Bc6! and explaining my reasons in the notes, I’m convinced that Black should respond similarly against 11.Qd3. However the Russian IM who seems to have an affinity for this offbeat system opted for 11...0-0 instead which after 12.Bxf6 Bxb5 13.Qxb5 exf6 surely leaves White with a comfortable advantage due to his superior pawn structure and outpost for the knight on d5. It wasn’t trivial though as starting with 14.Nd5 and Black eschewing 14...f5! in favour of 14...a6 15.Qb6 Kg7 16.Qxd8 Rfxd8 (yes here I am analysing an endgame again!), the Spanish residing Latvian GM allowed his opponent one or two chances before the game was decided as one might have expected.

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 e5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.Bc4 Be6 14.Ne4 f5 [B76]

With all things considered I make no excuses for including the fast paced game Djokic, M - Corrales Jimenez,F in an update because it brings something refreshingly new to the equation.

Yes, after 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 d5 10.Qe1 e5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.Bc4 Be6 14.Ne4 we’ve spent so much time on 14...Qc7 (fair enough given it’s easily Black’s most popular option in practice) and suddenly the direct 14...f5 appears:

Funnily enough whilst this has only featured on main databases on 8 occasions prior, I have looked at one of those encounters where after 15.Ng5 I implied that the then played 15...Bc8 was essentially forced to preserve this key bishop. Intriguingly though here the American GM was of a different opinion with 15...Qf6 16.Nxe6 Qxe6 hitting the board.

In truth I might never have considered including such a fast-paced game in an update but having seen this game without at first noting the time limit, it immediately appealed to me because:

  1. It brings something totally new to the table in an otherwise now ultra-theoretical line.
  2. This interesting concept is being deployed by an experienced Dragon exponent.
  3. Even if the idea might not stand the test of time at top level, it could easily remain of interest to enthusiastic Dragoneer club players.

Play continued with 17.Bc5 Rfd8 18.Qa5 Rd7 19.Kb1 Rad8 20.Ka1 e4! when surely the attraction is pulpable and things only getting better through 21.fxe4 fxe4 22.Rhe1 Kh8 23.Ba3 Qe5 (Shame Black missed 23...Nb6!!) 24.Rc1 e3 25.Bb3 e2 26.Qc5 Bf8 27.Qxc6 Bxa3. Yep, all in all I think it was a worthy inclusion!

Yugoslav Attack 9 Bc4 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Qa5 11.0-0-0 Be6 12.Bb3 b5 13.Kb1 [B77]

There is a clear lesson to be learnt from the game Savchenko, B - Skvortsov, A which occurs in the line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Qa5 11.0-0-0 Be6 12.Bb3 b5 13.Kb1 Here I’m not a fan of 13...Bxb3?! for reasons that are highlighted well in this game. Yes after 14.cxb3 Rfc8 15.Rc1:

15...e5 Black was clearly hoping to get in the break ...d5 so that he can ultimately point to an effective kingside pawn majority as superior to White’s ineffective queenside pawn majority. Unfortunately we are light years away from such a winning king and pawn endgame and moreover the position reached after 16.Be3 b4 17.Nd5 Nxd5 18.Qxd5 was surely mis-assessed. Perhaps originally Black thought that leaving White with an isolated pawn on d5 would be good for him but the big c6-square and the vulnerability of his a- and b-pawns are of more relevance. Black probably should have tried 18...Qxd5 10 exd5 Rfb8 though as 18...Qa6 19.Rc4 Rxc4 20.Qxc4 Qxc4 21.bxc4 f5 22.Kc2 Kf7 23.Kb3 was tantamount to a resignation anyway.

Happy (or please, not a worse one!) New Year everyone! Chris

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