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Finally some Dragon games of my own to bring you and could it be a case of ‘more beer, less fear?’.
Er well no, not really although 2 of this month’s annotated games are from the Kings Head Memorial blitz event. This tournament annually organised by English GM David Norwood tends to feature most of the country’s top players (and plenty of strong club ones) as they gather in a West London pub for a fun but competitive tournament. Eight groups of 10 battle it out all-play-all style, with the top two moving on to the knock-out stage. The wonderful idea is that tribute is paid to the chess characters that have passed away in proceeding year by stalwarts past and present of the tournament scene. As my old school teacher Richard Haddrell was amongst those honoured, I was never going to miss out on this occasion. The chess is played in a wonderful spirit and as it becomes clear that certain players are not going to qualify, it’s fair to say that the beer starts flowing! There are plenty of laughs with the highlight on the chess table this year definitely watching talented young English blitz specialist IM Thomas Rendle (who had just defeated both GM Luke McShane and myself) promptly finding himself a queen and knight up against the group bottom seed (by a mile) before allowing a back rank mate to Black’s only remaining piece!
Anyway, I digress...

Download PGN of February ’17 Dragon Sicilian games

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Dragon Irregular 5...g6 6 Nxc6 [B34]

Though then a speedy time limit tussle, I thought that the following offbeat encounter might be of interest particularly to the club player. After 5...g6 it’s definitely a little different but I write about the move 6.Nxc6 that ‘As this concedes control of the key d5-square and donates Black a handy half-open b-file, I always say that this is a trade that Black players should be happy to see unless White has an immediate strong follow up such as a disruptive e4-e5.’

Then after 6...bxc6 7.Qd4:

I add ‘Not the e-pawn thrust just yet then but certainly a move that seeks to challenge Black's traditional development. Funnily enough on several occasions in my Dragon playing life I had vaguely wondered about this sequence without actually taking a real look at what I would do. I guess given the usually undesirable knight trade followed by an unprovoked queen move, I just hadn't taken it seriously. A competitive blitz game wasn't perhaps the ideal time to spend too much time to ponder how best to set about refuting it!’. So Dovey, M - Ward, C now continued with my favouring 7...Nf6 over the equally playable 7...e5 when 8.e5 dxe5 9.Qxe5 Bg7 10.Qc5 Qb6 11.Qxb6 axb6 12.Be3 b5 13.Be2 0-0 14.Bf3 b4 15.Ne2 Nd5 occurred, leaving Black nicely in the driving seat.

Accelerated Dragon 6 Be3 Nf6 7 Bc4 0-0 8 Bb3 Re8 9 h3 [B35]

Well guys, I was determined to do some more intrepid reporting for you in the Accelerated Dragon line that Negi recommends and now I can confirm that 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Bg7 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 0-0 8.Bb3 Re8 9.h3 d6 10.0-0 Na5 is a bit boring!

Following 11.Qd2 b6 12.Bh6 Bh8 in Gantner, M - Ward, C I had managed at least to put ...Re8 and the lack of ...Bd7 to good use, but after 13.Rfe1 Bb7 14.Qd3 Nxb3 15.axb3 rather than settle for equality via 15...a6, I got a bit too ambitious through 15...d5?! Following 16.e5 Ne4 17.f4?! e6 18.Nxe4 dxe4 19.Qe3 a6 20.Rad1 Qc7 21.Bg5 Bg7 22.Rd2 h6 23.Bh4 I should have drawn a line, but I pushed the boat out too far with 23...g5?! and deserved what was coming to me!

Accelerated Dragadorf 8 a3 [B75]

Walker, N - Ward, C was the second of my Dragon games from the delightful (I say that even though I have scored 7/9 and 7.5/9 the two times I’ve competed and still not qualified from the group stages to the knock-out phase; but I’m not bitter!) Kings Head memorial blitz. I’ve certainly learnt that a 2 second increment doesn’t add much to your initial 3 minute starting allowance but actually that vaguely reasonable games can occur and certainly entertaining ones! As the following Dragon encounter seemed rather plausible (and I never seem to get many these days), I also thought I’d share it with you.

So through 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 I had adopted the Hyper-Accelerated move order to avoid a dreaded Anti-Sicilian (we’re talking 3 Bb5+) but after 4...Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 we’re back in main Dragon territory. Nevertheless, after 6.Be3, on the spur of the moment I opted for an Accelerated Dragadorf through 6...a6 7.f3 b5 and was met by 8.a3 about which I write...

‘White halts ...b4 for a while but may live to regret the inclusion of this move if planning to castle queenside. If in contrast White wants to 'go short' then the queenside challenge with the white a-pawn is also going to be less appealing given the tempo that would now be lost.’

Play continued 8...Bb7 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.h4 h5 11.0-0-0 Rc8 12.Kb1 Bg7 13.Nb3 Ne5 14.Nd5?! when actually I believe that White has played in a manner that an unprepared club player might. Not detracting from my reasonably graded friendly opponent but natural moves with nothing critical. Here I should have taken with the bishop but 14...Nxd5 15.exd5 Nc4 16.Bxc4 bxc4 17.Na5 c3 18.Nxb7 Qc7 19.Nxd6+? Qxd6 had also left me with an excellent position.

Dragadorf 8.Bc4 Nbd7 9.Qd2 b5 10.Bb3 Bb7 11.Bh6 [B75]

Enough of my own games and back to the top with (fresh from his Grand Tour victories) the main man of the moment Wesley So!

However, in So, W - Javakhadze, Z a close inspection reveals all is not as it seems...

6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 a6 8.Bc4 Nbd7 9.Qd2 b5 10.Bb3 Bb7 11.Bh6 is the most popular line (after 8 Bc4) for White and we have previously spoken quite a bit on the site about 11...Bxh6 12.Qxh6 Rc8 13.0-0-0 Rxc3 14.bxc3 and whether Black really gets enough for the exchange. If you’ve been keeping up with this line and read these annotations, then you’ll know that my view is that objectively speaking he probably doesn’t. However, with no computers involved there are always going to be practical chances and that was evident after 14...Qc7 15.Kb2 Ne5 16.Rhe1 Qc5 17.Re3 Kd7 18.Qh3+ Kc7 when the mild mannered American superstar bashed out 19.Bxf7?:

Clearly the idea of removing the f7-pawn (even at the cost of the bishop) was that the e6-square would be made available to the knight. However after 19...Bc8! White would be completely busted as he also needs his light-squared bishop to control the c4-square!

Alas, Black didn’t notice that, although with Kb8 20.Bb3 Rc8 21.Qg3 Nfd7 22.f4 Nc4+ 23.Bxc4 Qxc4 24.Nb3 Nb6 25.Rd4 Qc7 26.Kc1? you will discover that that wasn’t the only chance he was given.

Yugoslav Attack 9 g4 Be6 10 Nxe6 fxe6 11 0-0-0 Ne5 12 Be2 Qc8 [B76]

And, finally, on to the real Yugoslav Attack but of the 8.Qd2 0-0 9.g4 Be6 10.Nxe6 fxe6 11.0-0-0 variety in Kononenko, D - Vykouk, J.

In this game Black plumped for 11...Qc8 but after 12.Be2 Ne5 had the rare 13.Rhe1!? to deal with:

Currently scoring 100% in the 4 documented encounters to date, this is a very subtle move that sees White forgoing the option of trying to challenge the shell around the black king in favour of ultimately seeking a central breakthrough via e4-e5.

Strictly speaking 13...Nfd7 is a novelty but before Black could get in the ...Nb6 that might help secure a knight on c4, White correctly hit out with 14.f4! when 14...Nc4 15.Bxc4 Qxc4 16.e5 Nb6 17.exd6 Rfd8 18.Bxb6 Rxd6 19.Re4! left the first player heading for an attractive (i.e. from his point of view!) endgame.

Yugoslav Attack 9 g4 Be6 10 Nxe6 fxe6 11 0-0-0 Ne5 12 Be2 Qa5 [B76]

Probably saving the best until last we have the entertaining Preotu, R- Jones, G in the same variation of 9.g4 Be6 10.Nxe6 fxe6 11.0-0-0 Ne5 12.Be2.

Here, though, rather than 12...Qc8 (the recommendation in his book!), Gawain (who rarely fails to deliver in the entertainment stakes) repeats the 12...Qa5 that he has also had success with in the past. Often through 13.Kb1 White is teeing up a Nb5 to swap queens and prepare a relocation of this knight to d4 but here the fascinating 13...Rac8 14.h4 Nfd7 15.f4 Nc4 16.Bxc4 Rxc4 hit the board:

An intriguing position. The white kingside pawns are loitering with intent but they are also a tad loose and Black has some active pieces. White logically set about locking out the Dragon bishop with 17.e5 and there was more of that to come in 17...Nb6 18.Bxb6 axb6 19.Qe2 d5 20.f5 Rxc3 21.bxc3 Ra8 22.f6.

You know what; this was a crazy, delightfully tactical game with mistakes understandably made by both sides. I’m not going to ruin the rest of it for you but it is a real treat and well worth checking out!

Thanks for sticking with me! Best wishes, Chris

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