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I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of déjà vu with December 2020 in life in general but in the Dragon, always progression! Not Delta or Omicron but I have been neglecting the Accelerated variant recently and so this update makes up for that!
Festive Greetings!

Download PGN of December ’21 Dragon Sicilian games

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Maroczy Bind 6...Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.Bg5 Bg7 9.Qd2 0-0 10.Be2 a5 11.0-0 a4 12.f4 [B36]

So we kick off our Maroczy Bind selection with a lesson for Black to learn from the game Efroimski, M - Maltsevskaya, A We’re talking 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.Bg5 Bg7 9.Qd2 0-0 and so a retreat of the queen to d2 after parking his bishop on g5 rather than e3. Then upon 10.Be2 a5 11.0-0 a4 White initiated some kingside aggression through 12.f4:

A fair enough approach as was Black’s reply of 12...Qa5 but following 13.Rad1 Black then got a bit carried away in trying to exploit his opponent’s perceived vulnerability along the a7-g1 diagonal. The game annotations reveal that Black might be okay with the straightforward (if provocative) 13...Be6 but whilst I quite like the prophylactic 13...Re8!?, certainly 13...a3?! 14.b3 Ng4? was too optimistic. Black may have temporarily won the exchange after 15.Nd5 Qc5+ 16.Kh1 Nf2+ 17.Rxf2 Qxf2 but 18.Bxe7 Re8 19.f5 Bd7 20.Nf6+ Kh8 21.Rf1 Qb6 22.Nxd7 no doubt left him regretting his decision!

Accelerated Dragon, Maroczy Bind 7...Nxd4 8.Qxd4 Bg7 9.Be3 0-0 10.Qd3 [B36]

I do feel that after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 d6 7.Be2 Nxd4 8.Qxd4 Bg7 9.Be3 0-0 the retreat 10.Qd3 is a little awkward looking but as the results with it in practice are quite good (compared to the main line of 10 Qd2), this option cannot be ignored.

In Perez Ponsa, F - Fiorito, F play continued with the standard idea of 10...a5 11.0-0 a4 when 12.Bd4 Qa5 13.f4 Bg4 paved the way for future complications. There is no way for White to exploit this move immediately but 14.Rad1 Bxe2 15.Qxe2 a3 16.e5 dxe5 17.fxe5 Nd7 18.b4 certainly saw things start to get tricky for both sides. As it transpired 18...Qxb4 19.Nd5 Qa5 20.Bc3 Qc5+ was seeing Black weather the storm with the optimistic 21.Kh1?! leaving the him nicely in the driving seat against his Argentinian GM opponent after 21...Nb6! 22.Qf3 Nxd5 23.cxd5 Rac8 24.Ba1 b5.

Accelerated, Maroczy Bind 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Qb6 7.Nb3 Qd8 8.Nc3 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Nf6 10.f3 d6 [B38]

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Qb6 7.Nb3 Qd8 in what I have affectionately nicknamed the 'staircase variation' for the amount of times the black queen tends to travel up and down that d8-a5 diagonal, now White has to do something about his b2-pawn. The obvious problem for the higher rated Black player is that White could offer to repeat through 8 Nd4 but that aside we’re talking 8 Qd2 or the game continuation in Golubka, P - Plichta, K of 8.Nc3 That allows Black the opportunity to mix things up a bit through 8...Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Nf6 10.f3 d6 when 11.c5 was a not illogical novelty:

White was looking to trade off this pawn before losing it but naturally Black wasn’t so obliging with 11...d5 12.exd5 Nxd5!? 13.Bh6 Rg8 14.Qd2 Be6 15.c4 Nf6 16.Qe3 a5 17.Rd1 Nd7 18.Be2 a4 19.Nd4 Qa5+ 20.Kf2 Nxd4 21.Qxd4 a fascinating middlegame so different from those typically associated with the cramped conditions Black often experiences in most Maroczy Binds!

Classical Dragon 6.Be2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8 Be3 Nc6 9 Qd2 a6 [B73]

Yes that’s right you’ve read it correctly, through 5...g6 6.Be2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Be3 a6 9.Qd2 Nc6 we are essentially seeing Black eschew the more forcing/challenging 9...Ng4 or 9...d5 in favour of some slower queenside play:

What’s more in Pourkashiyan, A - Nakamura, H is that that theme continues with 10.Rad1 Qc7 11.h3 Bd7 12.f4 Rac8 and Black seemingly unconcerned by any White kingside offensive. I have often mentioned that unlike against the Yugoslav Attack, Black can adopt a calmer approach against the less critical variations and in that department the American talent definitely shows us the way here. White never gets going and after 13.Bf3?! b5 14.a3 Na5 15.Be2 Rfe8!? 16.Nd5 Nxd5 17.exd5 Nc4 18.Bxc4 Qxc4 Black is already winning a pawn and without many complications was well on the way to victory.

Yugoslav 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 e5 13.Bc5 Re8 14.Bc4 Be6 15.Nxd5 cxd5 16.Bxd5 [B76]

Regards 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 e5 13.Bc5 it is important to appreciate that in the main line after 13...Be6 14 Ne4, best by test for White is that 14...Rb8 is met by 15 Bc4 but that 14...Re8 is met by 15 h4. With that in mind whilst after the fashionable 13...Re8 I was pleased not to see another 14 Ne4 Qc7 15 h4 f5 16 Nd6 Rd8 17 Nxc8 Raxc8 18 h5 Nb6 19 Bxb6 Rxd2 20 Bxc7 Rxd1+ 21 Rxd1 opposite-coloured bishop ending, at the same time 14.Bc4 meant that in Manish Anto, CF - Juhasz, A White wasn’t on course for the most accurate transpositional response. Hence after 14...Be6 he tried 15.Nxd5 cxd5 16.Bxd5 when although trading on d5 offers Black some compensation, I enjoyed 16...Qc7!?:

To try for an advantage White is probably obliged to go for the maximum material gain but 17.Bxa8 Qxc5 18.Be4 Bxa2 19.Bd5 was certainly fun and looks like reasonable compensation. Alas then 19...Rc8! would have been more challenging than the played 19...Qf8?! 20.f4 Bxd5 21.Qxd5 that undeniably left White on top.

Yugoslav Attack 9.Bc4 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 11.Bb3 Qa5 12.h4 [B77]

We end the year then with Dobrovoljc, V - Nikolovski, N, a game from the European Teams Championship that brought with it the intrigue and drama that less competitive online games have been lacking. The variation is 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Bc4 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 11.Bb3 Qa5 where White unleashed a rarity in the form of 12.h4:

Both players representing their countries in a serious event and we’re entitled to believe at least that some preparation was involved on White’s part. Nevertheless it was Black who responded thematically through 12...Bxb3 13.cxb3 Rac8 14.a3 Rfd8 15.h5 Yes grabbing that h-pawn now would essentially lose but instead Black reacted to wing play with action in the centre via 15...e5! 16.Be3 d5 with 17.b4 Qa6 18.exd5 Nxh5 19.Bg5?! Rd7 which was now in his favour A slight inaccuracy allowed 20.Ne4 Qc4 21.Rd1 Nf4 22.d6 f5 23.b3! Qxb3 24.Nc5 Rxc5 25.bxc5 Ne6 26.0-0 Nxc5 27.Qd5+ Qxd5 28.Rxd5 b6 to lead us towards a drawish endgame but something new with some strong over-the-board play and you can’t say fairer than that!

Merry Xmas everyone! Chris

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