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Hurried-No! but Accelerated-Yes! as the ‘Maroczy Bind allowing’ variant one more gets equal billing. And... there’s just one question on everyone’s mind; ‘To be or not to be h3’? Fear not, all will become clear!

Download PGN of January ’20 Dragon Sicilian games

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Accelerated Dragon Maroczy Bind 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.Be2 Bg7 9.Be3 0-0 10.Qd2 a5 11.0-0 a4 12.f3 Qa5 [B36]

Well truth be told I probably wouldn’t recommend watching the whole of Sengupta, D - Lalic, B if you have something else to be doing with your time! However, whilst the Croatian GM’s rating is scandalously low (a result of too many quick draws with Black against lower-rated opposition) for such a talented player, the opening/middlegame contested is most certainly of theoretical importance.

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 a quick discussion takes place over how White might try to punish Black taking away the Nc2 options through 8 e5 and 8 c5 but the main game continues with 8.Be2 Bg7 9.Be3 0-0 10.Qd2 a5 11.0-0 a4 12.f3 Qa5 and this fashionable set-up that sees the black queen defended on an active post behind a pawn that inhibits White’s queenside play:

To be fair although after 13.Rab1 Be6 14.Rfc1 Rfc8 15.b4 axb3 16.axb3 Qb4 17.Qc2 Nd7 18.Nb5 White tries for some 90 moves more, Black was never in any serious trouble and the confirmation that Black was generally fine throughout (and had opportunities to be more ambitious himself!) came from Bogdan himself in the Hastings commentary room.

Accelerated Dragon Maroczy Bind 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 d6 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 Bd7 10.h3 Rc8 [B38]

So, a request came through to investigate the move 10 h3!? in the Maroczy Bind Classical variation and as your wish is my command, I thought I'd start laying the foundations by taking a look at a couple of recent outings with it and then take it from there.

There's no particular reason why it hasn't featured before aside from the fact that the 'normal Dragon' has tended to take priority over the Accelerated Dragon. Yes, our bloodthirsty readers typically like the cut and thrust of Yugoslav Attack scenarios and in recent times in the Accelerated Dragon, the Gurgenidze system, especially with ...a5-a4 as just seen, has been quite fashionable and is scoring reasonably well.

Anyhow after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 d6 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 Bd7 10.h3!? in Sosa, T - Carbonell Sancho, M Black deployed the 2nd most popular response 10...Rc8:

Following 11.Qd2 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 Bc6, the main debate then revolves around whether playing h2-h3 is better than playing f2-f3. Both keep a black piece out of g4 but the obvious point is that h2-h3 doesn't offer protection to the e4-pawn. However, it should be noted that should White ever wish to recapture with his e-pawn on d5 after his Nd5 sees the steed taken, then he would rather the pawn be back on f2 with no hole on e3. Also, there is no point in stopping the f-pawn on f3 the aggressive intention is to advance the f-pawn further.

Play continued 13.Qe3 Nd7 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.b4 b6 16.Rad1 Kg8 17.h4 a5 18.a3 axb4 19.axb4 Ra8 20.Qh6 Ra3 21.Rd3 Ne5 22.Rg3 f6 23.Qc1 Ra7 24.f4 Nf7 25.b5 Ba8 26.h5 when Black was under the pump. So far so good for 10 h3!?.

Accelerated Dragon Maroczy Bind 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 d6 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 Bd7 10.h3 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc6 12.Qc2 [B38]

Next up in Punin, A - Silich, Y after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.Be2 d6 9.h3 Bd7 10.0-0 Black plumped for the immediate 10...Nxd4 and after 11.Bxd4 Bc6 White chose to guard his attacked e4-pawn through 12.Qc2:

Again, I’d reiterate that tactically Black wasn’t necessarily threatening to win the pawn (bar flicking in ...e5 due to a forking check on d4) but protecting it in this manner is sensible as the d1-square is vacated for the rook. Indeed, the text has been played on 204 occasions to date with a score 72.4% which is fairly significant!

Another advantage of deleting the move f2-f3 is demonstrated after 12...a5 13.Rad1 Nd7 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 in the form of 15.Bg4! Otherwise impossible, now a simple threat is to take on d7 and press through with e4-e5. The game continued 15...Ne5 16.c5 b5 17.cxd6 exd6 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.Rxd5 Qb6 20.Rfd1 Rfd8 21.Be2 Rac8 22.Qd2 b4 23.Rb5 Qc6 24.f3 Kg8 25.Kh1 when the black isolated d-pawn was a big problem.

As far as 10 h3!? goes, so far it seems the ball is in Black’s court. Let’s see what we can come up with!

Classical Dragon 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Bd7 10.Kb1 [B72]

Moving on to the ‘real’ Dragon and I have to say that the game Ezra, PC - Venkat, R was a hugely entertaining game and featured a very logical new to the site idea that ultimately worked a treat.

The encounter was in the still trendy aggressive Classical line of 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 where Black opted to calmly develop through 9...Bd7 i.e. rather than seek instant retribution via 9...Ng4 or 9...Nxd4 10 Bxd4 Be6, and only after 10.Kb1 sprung to life through 10...Nxd4 11.Bxd4 b5!?:

We are constantly making comparison in this system with the Yugoslav Attack and the obvious one here is that with no white pawn on f3, the e4-pawn is that much less secure, making ...b4 a genuine threat. White dealt with that situation with 12.Bf3 but then after 12...b4, rather than the more logical 13 Nd5, opted for 13.Ne2?! after which 13...e5! 14.Be3 d5! 15.Ng3 d4 saw Black take over White’s operation with some juicy tactical variations featuring later.

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 Bxh6 12.Qxh6 [B76]

Currently the fashionable alternative to our self-imposed main line occurs in Peng, X - Sun, Y where Black suffered but we all get to learn. Specifically then we are talking 5...g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 Bxh6 12.Qxh6 where Black now deployed 12...Qa5?:

This game provides an excellent lesson for us all to take heed. As it happens this is the second most popular move in practice but with bad results and for a reason!

Her majesty swings out into action on what is typically an active post and certainly ...Rb8 and ...Qb4 or even ...Rxb2 are serious ideas. However, the fact is that this is a time sensitive situation and there is a point as to why we have spent a little time on 12...Qc7 (preventing the advance e4-e5) and more on 12...Qb6. Yes, control of the e3-square would have avoided the pickle that Black found himself in after 13.e5 Nd7 14.h4 Nxe5 15.h5 Bf5 16.g4 f6 17.Qe3! Definitely take heed if you don’t want to be walking in to the likes of 17... Bd7 18.hxg6 hxg6 19.f4 Nxg4 20.Qxe7 Rf7 21.Rh8+!

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 14.Na4 Qc7 15.Nc5 Rd8 16.Bc4 Bf5 17.Bb3 [B76]

This is definitely a month of enlightenment as Black pays the price but we reap the rewards in the game Savanovic, A - Andersson, G.

Of course 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 14.Na4 Qc7 15.Nc5 Rd8 16.Bc4 Bf5 is all old hat to our subscribers now but it’s easy to get confused. Black is threatening ...Bxc2 but after 17.Bb3 we have established that 17...h5?! doesn’t really secure the bishop because of 18 g4! anyway. Hence we’ve dedicated most resources to 17...Nf4 and 17...Nb6 but one can understand how Black stumbled into 17...Rd6?! which in similar scenarios is a useful and flexible move:

Here though, 18.g4 Be6 19.Rde1 Rad8 20.Nxe6 fxe6 occurred when White chose 21.Qe4 over the perhaps more accurate 21 Qe5 but the situation is the same. Black has a very nice knight in the centre but has lousy pawns. Ironically where his pawn structure is best is where White is likely to strike and indeed 21...Qa5 22.h4 Rb8 23.h5 was suddenly very challenging with 23...Rxb3 24.cxb3 Nf6 25.Qe5 Qd2+ 26.Kb1 Qd3+ 27.Ka1 Qxf3 dealt with in devastating fashion.

Best wishes to you all! Chris

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