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Dear subscribers,
Lurching from one disaster to another; what is wrong with this World? I’m afraid all I can say is that as with ‘Game of Thrones’ it’s not a lack of Dragons! At least (spoiler alert!) not until the end!
Anyway moving swiftly on...

Download PGN of February ’22 Dragon Sicilian games

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Dragon 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 a6 8.Qd2 h5 9.Bc4 Nbd7 10.a4 [B75]

6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 a6 8.Qd2 h5 is of course the system that has sparked some enthusiasm due to its deployment by Magnus with Black’s last move prioritising inhibiting White’s kingside expansion and preventing Bh6 over the typical Dragadorf like queenside development. New to the site after 9.Bc4 Nbd7 was 10.a4 stopping Black’s queenside expansion whilst limiting White’s own king options.

Yes, although White no doubt started off with a long castles intention through a Yugoslav Attack, now that’s pretty much off the table but after 10...Ne5 11.Bb3 Bd7 12.f4 Nc6 (12...Ng4 13 Bg1 b5! Looks critical to me.) 13.h3 0-0 14.0-0 Nxd4 15.Bxd4 Bc6 16.Rae1 there was certainly still an option to attack. Indeed 16...Nd7 17.f5 Bxd4+ 18.Qxd4 Kh7 19.fxg6+ fxg6 20.Rxf8 Qxf8 21.Rf1 Nf6 22.e5 dxe5 23.Qxe5 whilst not mating any time soon, definitely left White in full command in Shuvalova, P - Maurizzi, M.

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 Bd7 10.h4 Rc8 11.h5 Nxh5 12.g4 Nf6 [B76]

I couldn’t resist investigating the game Rodchenkov, S - Lauridsen, JM as I was intrigued to get some answers myself! 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 Bd7 10.h4 does Black really have to block with 10...h5 allowing what would be a bizarre move order to reach a Soltis variation after 11 Bc4. I mean who would deliberately choose a 9 0-0-0 Yugoslav Attack just to opt to switch to a main line of 9 Bc4 two moves later? Perhaps then there would be something else but in this game the spotlight was on 10...Rc8 11.h5 Nxh5 12.g4 Nf6:

Obviously White is looking to smash down the h-file but if in his attempts to do that Black is able to sacrifice the exchange on c3 and compromise White’s pawn structure then typically Black will be fine. Of course right now there is a bit of traffic on the c-file and Black has a decision to make after 13.Nxc6 All options are analysed but it was 13...Rxc6 that occurred with the follow up of 14.Bh6 Rxc3 15.Bxg7 Rxc2+ 16.Qxc2 Kxg7 seeing Black net two pawns for the exchange without compromising his opponent’s queenside. In general I’d say two is better than three (with doubling and isolation included!) in that case but 17.Kb1?! Qa5 18.Qd3 Rc8 19.Be2 Be6 20.a3 b5 21.g5 Nh5 22.Qd4+ Kg8 had left Black well in the game with casual play meaning things only getting better for him!

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bc4 e6 12.Bb3 e6 12.Bb3 Bb7 13.Na4 [B76]

So with reference to this month’s Mchedlishvili, M - Tutisani, N encounter it would appear that the variation 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.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bc4 is here to stay.

White’s light-squared bishop seems to be biting on granite but on b3 it does act as a shield to the b-file. As a system it still looks a bit odd to me but we’re obviously going to have to take it seriously! Rather than an unsubtle checkmate approach, White also has positional themes in mind and in that respect I have to say that 12...Bb7 13.Na4 dxe4?! 14.Nc5 Qe7 15.Qd6 Qxd6 16.Rxd6 Rab8 17.fxe4 Ba8 was really playing into White’s hands. He has an unpleasant (from Black’s perspective!) clamp on the position and whilst 18.Nd7?! Nxd7 19.Rxd7 did give the chance for activity via 19...c5!, that was eschewed and 19...a5 20.Bc5 Rfd8 21.Rhd1 saw domination maintained in an endgame that White came so close to converting.

Yugoslav 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 Bxh6 12.Qxh6 Rb8 13.e5 Nd7 14.Rd4 Re8 15.e6 fxe6 16.Bd3 [B76]

So, following 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 the other trendy alternative to the main line remains 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 where there are so many potential areas for investigation. Certainly we’ve seen 11...Bxh6 12.Qxh6 Rb8 13.e5 Nd7 14.Rd4 (the alternative attacking approach to the standard h4-h5 plan) before and the game Savanovic, A - Kruckenhauser, A sees an improvement for Black after 14...Re8 15.e6 fxe6 16.Bd3 Nf8 17.h4 in the form of the previously suggested on the site 17...e5!:

Here we do some fun analysis on the rook sac 18 h5 but it was 18.Ra4 Qd6 19.h5 Bf5 20.Bxf5 gxf5 21.Qg5+ Kh8 22.Qxf5 a5!? that occurred in the game with 23.Rd1 Nd7 24.Ne4 Qh6+ 25.Ng5? being clearly in Black’s favour. Alas he later erred and there was a complete turnaround. Well that’s chess for you!

Yugoslav Attack 9.Bc4 Nd7 10.0-0-0 Nb6 11.Be2 Ne5 12.b3 d5 [B77]

The game Hollan, P - Sluka, R is a reminder to us that after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.f3 Bg7 7.Be3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 there is more to life than the ‘Soltis’, the ‘Chinese’ and the ‘Topalov’. Indeed we have had some fun looking at 9...Nd7 10.0-0-0 Nb6 in the past with Black riskily transferring a key defender away from the kingside in order to emerge with a knight on c4. Interesting here is that although 11 Bb3 has been played far more in practice, it is the lesser seen 11.Be2 that has scored significantly better results.

The obvious advantage of the retreat is that after 11...Ne5 White can cover the c4-square with 12.b3 when although 12...Bd7 is normal, on this occasion Black turned to the thematic break 12...d5:

Definitely logical with the added bonus of holes around the white king, always the issue was going to be the d-file and now 13.Ndb5 Bd7 14.Nxd5 Bxb5 15.Bxb5 Nxd5 16.exd5 Qd6 17.Kb1 Rfd8 had basically seen Black sac a pawn for some but maybe not enough compensation. I’ll leave you to decide!

Yugoslav, Chinese Variation 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rb8 11.Bb3 Na5 12.Kb1 b5 13.Bh6 Bxh6 14.Qxh6 e5 15.Nde2 [B78]

The Chinese Variation continues to stand the test of time and Mazur, S - Baumegger, S was a nice reminder of the variation. Actually though whilst 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.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rb8 11.Bb3 Na5 we’ve seen plenty of 12 Bh6 Bxh6 13 Qxh6 b5 14 h4 e5 15 Nde2 b4, actually less so with the subtle change after 12.Kb1 b5 13.Bh6 Bxh6 (As revisited in the notes, there isn’t anything wrong with the other plan of 13...Nc4 here even though White isn’t compelled to take on c4 and open up the b-file.) 14.Qxh6 e5 15.Nde2 of White having included Kb1 instead of h4.

This doesn’t change much as far as Black’s main plan goes though and after 15...Nxb3 16.cxb3 b4 17.Nd5 Nxd5 18.Rxd5 Be6 19.Rd2 Rb6 20.h4 Ra6 21.h5 g5 a familiar story saw White attempt anything to open up a line towards the black king. That’s right, he tried 22.f4?! gxf4 23.g3 but 23...f3! 24.Nf4 exf4 25.gxf4 Kh8 26.f5 Bc8 27.Rg1 Rg8 28.Rxg8+ Kxg8 wasn’t the price of a piece worth paying as checkmate on g7 was not forthcoming!

Best wishes, Chris

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