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Happy New Year everyone!
Sorry this is a little late, but at least I pushed the boat out on my usual cut off time in order to incorporate an outrageously shocking Dragon game from the super-strong Wijk Aan Zee Tata Steel Group A event. I also had my usual commentary stint at the annual Hastings Masters where I was commentating live on two other wonderful Yugoslav Attack encounters. One of those involved Gawain as Black and in the other game as Black, was he who was White against Gawain! Hope that all makes sense!
Okay I will be revisiting the inbox in my next update and George from the USA, hopefully I might have some dvd news soon!

Download PGN of January '13 Dragon Sicilian games

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A good month for the (Black side of the) Dragon is this one and so without further ado let's get stuck into the action:

Yugoslav Attack Dragadorf [B75]

We haven't had a Dragadorf for a while and certainly it was tempting to include Mazi - Rezan because of the fascinating end to the game. Opening wise, I've never been a fan of the early Bh6 if the white queen is forced to retreat early, to avoid the positional exchange sac on c3:

In contrast, though, quite appealing for Black is the early ...e5, after the Dragon bishop has been traded off, especially when the white knights are forced on to poor routes away from the outpost d5.

Yugoslav Attack 9 0-0-0 d5; White accepts the pawn [B76]

Well, Gawain Jones isn't back with us yet, but as I was commentating live on this encounter, I couldn't resist annotating it for the site. Indeed, twinned with the fact that I was armed with some of his post- match comments and Vocaturo - Jones was a tactical feast, well, the game simply could not be ignored. The first piece of advice is in preparing for any Dragon games, be sure to take on board annotations, especially if you made them yourself!

Yes, Gawain forgot his own work and from the above position after 15...Bf5 16 Qa3 Rab8 17 Ba6 Qc6 18 Bd3, promptly played the inferior 18...Rfc8?! rather than the 18...Qd7 or 18...Qd5 alternatives that he had considered to be better. Indeed then after 19 Bxf5 gxf5, it was White that got to play Gawain's (well and Hiarc's!) strong recommendation 20 Rd3! (a big improvement on the previously tried 20 Bc5? of his site annotated game Popilsky-Djurhuus).

Okay such is life and anyway, the game still had to be won, or as was the case lost as the game sprung to life in a flurry of activity and tactics.

Yugoslav Attack 9 0-0-0 d5 10 Qe1 [B76]

Despite the young Italian GM Daniele Vocaturo trying to prove a theoretical edge against the Dragon in his game with Gawain, earlier in the same tournament he had been heralding the Black cause in a fantastically entertaining encounter with a GM norm chasing, and clearly on form, Scottish IM. No surprises then that Mannion-Vocaturo received a lot of air time in the commentary room. Sure, the mind-bending concept of 4 queens on the board always fascinates people, but this 9 0-0-0 d5 10 Qe1 e5 11 Nxc6 bxc6 12 exd5 Nxd5 13 Bc4 Be6 14 Ne4 Qc7 (which these days seems to reach the old main line type middlegame more than the old main line!) variation is also quite theoretically important:

particularly if White doesn't like the way the trendy line next up is going.

Yugoslav Attack 9 0-0-0 d5 10 exd5 Nxd5 11 Nxc6 bxc6 12 Bd4 Bxd4 [B76]

The game Karjakin - Van Wely was an absolute shocker! Just when things looked set for the typical tense middlegame, it was bang, crash, wallop, all over!

Played in such a high level event, I was going to be highly critical of the Dutch GM, but although it's true that he doesn't exactly cover himself in glory, 'not so lucky' Luc in this instance seemed to be lost after 18 g4! in the above position, effectively straight from the opening. I suspect that we are going to see more of 16 Nc5 in the future!

Yugoslav Attack 9 g4 Be6 10 Nxe6 with 12...Qc8 [B76]

The game Van Kampen-Mostertman seriously brings something to the table in the form of 18...g5!?:

Up till this point in practical games, despite persevering with it, black players have been suffering in the endgames in this line. However this inspired novelty sees Black comfortably draw against his much higher rated opponent. Furthermore there are opportunities for White to go wrong, when he could conceivably even lose!

Yugoslav Attack 9 g4 Be6 10 Nxe6 with 12...Rc8 [B76]

In the position above, strong players have tended to play 13 Nb5 in order to keep the black queen away from a5 and look to switch the knight to d4 in order to home in on the e6-pawn. In Edouard - Bakre, White takes a time out with 13 Kb1 instead, and only after 13...Qa5 does he play 14 Nb5. Following 14...Qxd2 15 Rxd2 a6 16 Nd4 though, Black is able to keep things together adequately with 16...Kf7 and again we see another GM unable to break down his significantly lower rated opponent. In view of this game, I can't see 13 Kb1 taking off.

Back real soon!

Best wishes, Chris

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To get in touch with me subscribers can email me at Chris