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Totally unbiased game selection as usual from me this month and keep an eye out for the one game where White avoids defeat! I mean to be fair he did nearly win! Oh well... at least enjoy!

Download PGN of January ’24 Dragon Sicilian games

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Classical Dragon 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nb3 d6 8.Be2 0-0 9.Qd2 Be6 10.Bh6 [B72]

The game Gattass, A - El Debs, F sort of features a mishmash of ideas for White in 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nb3 d6 8.Be2 0-0 9.Qd2 Be6 10.Bh6:

So White deployed an early Nb3 in order to dissuade a swift ...d5 but not having casted short, this is neither a standard Classical Dragon and with Be2 included in his system rather than f2-f3, it isn’t the 9 Nb3 Yugoslav Attack either!

Actually I have assigned 10 Bh6 with a ‘?!’ in the notes because White isn’t really primed for an h-file assault and after 10...Rc8 11.Bxg7 Kxg7 12.0-0 he misses his dark-squared bishop. Sure after 12...a6 13.f4 White demonstrates aggressive intent but 13... b5 14.Bf3 Na5 15.Nxa5 Qxa5 16.a3 Rc4 17.Qe3 Qc7 18.Be2 never really saw an attack get going and 18... Qc5 19.Qxc5 Rxc5 20.Bd3 Rb8 21.Ne2 Bc4 22.Nc3 a5 23.Rfc1 b4 24.axb4 axb4 was a very pleasant endgame for Black.

Hungarian Dragon 6.Be3 Nc6 7.f3 h5 8.Nb3 [B72]

The Hungarian variation after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Nc6 7.f3 h5 has Black itching to trade off knights on d4 and bring the ‘Dragon’ bishop out with tempo against a white queen on d2. Recently though we’ve seen White players scuttling Black’s plan by delaying the deployment of his queen through 8 Bc4 and in Alekseev, E- Kupervaser, E we see a similar strategy but through 8.Nb3 instead.

This knight retreat is evidently a running theme throughout this month’s update but in 8...Bg7 9.Be2 Be6 10.Nd5 0-0 11.c4 rather than a Yugoslav Attack or a Classical variation, the game gets a Maroczy bind feel to it. Play continued sensibly through 11...Nd7 12.Qd2 a5 with 13.Nd4 Bxd5 14.exd5 Nxd4 15.Bxd4 a4 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Qd4+ f6 18.Kf2 Qa5 19.Rhe1 Rfe8 20.Bf1 Rac8 21.Re3 Qc5 22.Rd1 Ne5 23.Rc3 g5 tendering about equal chances. A disaster though was awaiting one of the players but no spoilers!

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 Be6 [B76]

Pretty trendy recently after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 d5 has been the 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bh6 variation where we have in particular been focusing on 11...Bxh6 12 Qxh6 and then either 12...Rb8, 12...Qb6 or 12...e5. In this month’s Figueredo Losada, L - Dominguez Aguilar, G instead we revisit 11...Be6 which doesn’t lure the white queen towards the king but does connect the rooks along the back rank, bolster the centre and put paid to a future e4-e5-e6 positional pawn sac. Interesting after 12.Bxg7 Kxg7 13.exd5 is that Black selects 13...Bxd5:

Not that I think that there is anything especially wrong with the automatic recapture with the pawn but 14.Na4 Qc7 15.c4 Be6 16.Bd3 c5 17.Qe3 Rac8 throws up an interesting imbalance of superior structure Vs more active pieces where 18.g3?! Qa5! 19.Nc3 Qb4 20.Rhe1 Rb8 21.Qe2 Rfd8 22.Qc2 Rd6 23.b3 Rbd8 24.g4 Rd4 25.Re3 Qb8 26.Ne2 R4d7 27.h3 Qh2 28.Qc3 Kg8! saw Black get on top and quite significantly after 29.f4? Bxg4!

Yugoslav 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 14.Na4 Qc7 15.Bc4 Nb6 [B76]

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 the whole 12...Bxd4 13.Qxd4 Qb6 14.Na4 Qc7 system continues to stand the test of time but interesting after 15.Bc4 was in De Winter, A - Pijpers, A seeing Black deviate from the overwhelmingly most popular 15...Rd8 in favour of Hikaru’s old 15...Nb6 In the archives you can see that after 16.Bb3 Nxa4 17.Qxa4 c5 Caruana favoured central control through 18 Rhe1 but ultimately wasn’t too successful. Here White looked to bash Black out of the park through 18.h4 h5 19.g4 but ironically we were closer to an endgame!

That’s because the queens were forced off through 19...c4 20.Qxc4 (upon 20 Bxc4 Black has 20...Qf4+ followed by ...Be6) Qxc4 21.Bxc4 when 21...hxg4 22.Rhg1 gxf3 23.Rxg6+ Kh7 24.Rg3 Bf5 was a fascinating endgame. I’d say that White is favourite but in practice with big majorities for both sides, any result is possible. However I’d also add that 19...hxg4!? 20 h5 c4 is potentially a better version for Black anyway and so plenty of mileage left in this idea!

Yugoslav Attack 9.g4 Be6 10.Nxe6 fxe6 11.0-0-0 Nd7 [B76]

To be fair the line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.g4 Be6 10.Nxe6 fxe6 11.0-0-0 has been a tad stale for a while but the good news is that this month in Piekielny, P - Golubka, P the new concept 11...Nd7 brings us something a little different:

We are extremely familiar with 11...Ne5 but here the other knight prepares a relocation to either that same square or c5 whilst simultaneously unleashing a discovered attack against the f3-pawn.

This system had tended to become a little predictable and dare I use the word ‘drawish’ but 12.Bc4 Rxf3 13.Bxe6+ Kh8 14.h4 Nc5 15.Bd5 Qb6 16.Rde1 Raf8 17.g5 e6 18.h5 was very far from that! Play continued with 18...gxh5 19.Bxc6 Qxc6 20.Qh2 Qe8 21.Qxd6 b6 22.Qh2 Kg8 23.Qxh5 Qxh5 24.Rxh5 Bxc3 25.bxc3 Rf1 26.Rxf1 Rxf1+ 27.Kb2 Nxe4 when Black had emerged with a favourable endgame but the notes suggest that there were plenty of fun and complicated deviations available to both sides.

Soltis 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.h4 h5 13.Bg5 Rc5 14.g4 hxg4 15.f4 Nc4 16.Qe2 Na5 [B78]

Last month I gave the opinion that regards sharp, complex middlegames and situations where analytical skills flourish most then you can’t go too far wrong than in the ‘Soltis Variation’. Looking at the game Rodriques, E - Cuenca Jimenez, J could justify that assertion although of course it’s possible that Black’s success might just have equally been down to his knowing his stuff better than his opponent!

Anyway 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 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.h4 h5 was a Soltis Variation in its purest form but after 13.Bg5 Rc5 14.g4 hxg4 15.f4 Nc4 16.Qe2 the success of 16...Na5!? in practice is astounding.

It's true that 16...b5 is way more common and I’ve had good things to say in the past about 16...Qc8!? but the text has a whopping 70% success rate with quite frankly 17.h5?! Rxg5! 18.fxg5 Nxh5 like stealing candy from a baby! White was relentless but 19.Rxh5 gxh5 20.Qh2 Nxb3+ 21.Nxb3 Bxc3 22.bxc3 Kg7 23.e5 Bf5 24.Qf4 Bg6 left Black totally bossing.

Best wishes, Chris

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