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Dear subscribers,
Indian legends, Hungarian entertainers, novelties, cool new systems reinforced, bucket loads of Yugoslav Attacks and a resurgence of ...Qa5. Punctuality aside and what more could you ask for?
Happy New Year and Happy reading!

Download PGN of January ’22 Dragon Sicilian games

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Modern Classical Dragon 6.Bc4 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.h3 Nc6 9.Nf3 Na5 10.Bb3 b6 [B70]

Following 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.Bc4 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.h3 Nc6 most are accustomed to seeing 9 Be3 or 9 Re1 but in recent times 9.Nf3 has become a familiar site as White avoids the knights tension in the middle by withdrawing his own:

Specifically in Szpar, M- Carlsson, P this has been done with h2-h3 already inserted, meaning that Black can’t solve the issue of what to do with his light-squared bishop through 9...Bg4 when he is happy to trade it for the knight. Instead then he needs a different solution and I find 9... Na5 10.Bb3 b6 11.Re1 Bb7 an appealing alternative. The knight on a5 has the option of trading itself on b3 or when support arrives, dropping in to c4. Moreover 12.Bg5 h6 13.Bf4 Rc8 offers up a familiar theme which was realised after 14.Qe2?! Rxc3 15.bxc3 Nxe4 (in fact 15...e5! first would have been more accurate) 16.Rac1?! e6 17.Qd3 d5 leaving a pawn and great structural compensation for the exchange.

Black was clearly on top but beware that 18.Qe3 g5 19.Be5 f6 20.Bh2 f5? 21.Be5 Bxe5 22.Nxe5 Qc7 23.Qd4 Rc8 24.Re3 Qc5 25.Qd1 Nf6 26.h4 had already seen things take a big turn for the worse with 26...f4? 27 hxg5! hxg5 28 Rh3! ultimately leading to Black’s demise.

Dragon 6.f3 Nc6 7.Be3 h5 8.Qd2 Nxd4 9.Bxd4 Bh6 10.Bb5+ Bd7 11.Qd3 [B72]

Although with life (hopefully) moving towards normality, I’m expecting to include fewer fast paced games in updates, it’s very difficult to ignore an offering from the World blitz event like Saric,Iv - Rapport,R as the Hungarian GM has a unique style that rarely fails to deliver in the entertainment department!

What’s more is that in 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.f3 Nc6 7.Be3 h5 8.Qd2 Nxd4 9.Bxd4 Bh6 it was in one of our rapidly gaining in popularity side-systems, with this time White correctly meeting 10.Bb5+ Bd7 11.Qd3 with 11...Bc6!:

The key is not to allow the white knight free reign over the d5-square and after 12.0-0 0-0 13.Bxf6 exf6 14.Kh1 Qb6 15.a4 Qc5 16.Rfd1 Rfd8 17.Nd5 Black should really have taken it then and stood very comfortable. Instead, possibly taking a practical rather than objective approach, he opted for 17... Kg7?! which seemed slightly ropey after 18.b4 Qf2 especially if White had taken on c6 now and dropped his knight in on e7. He didn’t though and soon 19.Bc4 Rac8 20.c3 Qh4 21.g3 Qh3 22.Qd4 Bxd5 23.Bxd5?! h4! 24.Rg1 Bf4!! saw him under serious pressure and heading for a picturesque mate!

Yugoslav 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 e5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.Bc4 Be6 14.Kb1 f5 15.Qd2 e4 [B76]

I’m not going to lie, the game Anand, V - Mamedov, Rau was a bit of an anti-climax. After 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 d5 certainly 10.Qe1 remains a valid option for those White players wishing to restrict their opponent’s options. However whilst 10...e5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.Bc4 Be6 14.Kb1 does leave Black with some interesting variants to choose from (as regular subscribers will know!), 14... f5?!:

15.Qd2 e4 16.Nxd5 cxd5 17.Bxd5 Qxd5 18.Qxd5 Bxd5 19.Rxd5 isn’t one of them!

Up against a legend of the chess board, I had hoped that the talented Azerbaijani GM would have more up his sleeve than the endgame 19...f4 20.Bc5 Rfb8 21.b3 e3 22.Bd6 Rd8 23.c4 g5 24.Kc2 but I’m afraid that’s all he had and the famous Indian GM didn’t have to break a sweat to convert.

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 Qa5 12.Bxg7 Kxg7 13.g4 [B76]

So, 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 d5 it seems that 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 is still all the rage and we’ve certainly considered plenty of Black options. The game Nasuta, G - Tologontegin, S though offered to opportunity to revisit 11...Qa5 when after 12.Bxg7 Kxg7 White unleashed the novelty 13.g4:

White’s threat is the simple g4-g5 but actually it was Black who went a pawn up after 13...dxe4 14.Nxe4 Qxa2 albeit with excellent compensation for White through 15.Qc3! Now the g4-g5 threat is renewed with 15...Kg8 16.Nxf6+ exf6 17.Bc4! Qa4 18.b3 Qa3+ 19.Kb1 leaving White with very reasonable compensation. Black was desperate to find a solution for his bishop but 19...Ba6? wasn’t it given 20.Bxa6 Qxa6 21.Qxf6 Qb7 22.h4 left White in such a dominant position. Play continued 22...Rae8 23.Rhe1 c5 24.h5 Qb6 25.Qc3 Qb4 26.Kb2 Rxe1 27.Rxe1 Rd8 28.h6 Qxc3+ 29.Kxc3 when the endgame from a Black perspective made for painful viewing!

Yugoslav 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 14.Na4 Qc7 15.Bc4 Rd8 16.Nc5 Bf5 17.Bb3 Nb6 18.Qe3 Rxd1+ [B76]

Don’t get too excited but it seems to me that in arguably the new main line of 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 14.Na4 Qc7 15.Bc4 Rd8 16.Nc5 Bf5 17.Bb3 Nb6 18.Qe3 Black has an improvement on 18...Nd5 in the form of 18...Rxd1+!?:

Given his queenside isolanis, it does make sense to want to keep on more pieces but this trade here and now leaves White with a decision to make. Investigated in the notes is 19 Kxd1 but I would have thought most, including White in Haring, F - Pijpers, A would lean towards 19.Rxd1 even though Black then bags a pawn with 19...Qxh2 Certainly then 20.g4 Nd5 21.Qe1 Qd6 22.Bxd5 cxd5 23.Qe3 Bc8 24.c4 is very sharp but through 24...e6 25.g5 Qh2 26.f4? e5! 27.Qd2 Qg3 28.Ne4 Qxf4 29.Qxf4 exf4 30.cxd5 Bf5 it was Black who emerged on top and was able to convert the endgame.

Yugoslav 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Qa5 11.0-0-0 Rfc8 12.Bb3 Ne5 13.Kb1 Nc4 14.Bxc4 Rxc4 15.Nb3 Qe5 [B79]

Regular subscribers will know that although as far as the 9 Bc4 Yugoslav Attack goes I acknowledge that the Soltis, Chinese and Topalov systems are probably where it’s at, I still retain a soft spot for my old favourite ...Qa5 lines. Imagine then my surprise when a whole bunch of them cropped up this month with White winning just the one and Black all the others!

Sadly, though, I have selected Becerra Rivero, J - Rodriguez, Pe to annotate as the main game (the other encounters are mentioned!) as it does highlight one of the troublesome lines.

Okay so we’re talking 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Qa5 11.0-0-0 Rfc8 12.Bb3 Ne5 13.Kb1 Nc4 14.Bxc4 Rxc4 15.Nb3 where Black has to make a decision as to where to move his attacked queen and here plumps for 15...Qe5:

I must confess that this move is attractive in the case of the fairy tale possibility 16 g4 Rac8 17 f4 Qxc3!! but newsflash; ‘It ain’t gonna happen!’. I know I’m such a killjoy but the reality is that the main game continuation of 16.Bd4 Qe6 17.Rhe1 is far more likely to occur with White taking zero risks to progress and looking to embarrass the black queen as happens through 17...a5?! 18.e5! Nd5 19.exd6 Nxc3+ 20.Bxc3 Bxc3 21.bxc3 Qxd6 22.Qe2! when White was winning a piece and soon thereafter, the game.

Best wishes to everyone, Chris

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