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Download PGN of July ’20 Dragon Sicilian games

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Accelerated Dragadorf 6.Be3 a6 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 Bb7 9.a4 e5 10.Nb3 b4 11.Na2 d5 12.exd5 [B75]

Regards the game Karjakin, S - Williams, S, regular subscribers will know that the Ginger GM is a long time French Defence advocate who has dabbled in the Dragon a bit and in particular, has written a text on the Dragadorf variation. He is also recognised in England as an excellent blitz player and paired here against one of the best in the World at that format and well, I simply couldn't ignore this (only fast time limit encounter of the update) as it almost guaranteed fireworks!

Furthermore, it was to offer us something of theoretical interest as after 6.Be3 a6 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 Bb7 9.a4 e5 10.Nb3 b4 11.Na2 d5 we see 12.exd5 featuring in a main game for the first time on the site:

Previously we had dismissed 12 Nxb4 dxe4! as being fine for Black and had settled on 12 Bg5!? as being critical.

Play continued with 12...Nxd5 13.0-0-0 Nd7 when I believe the tempting 14.Bc4?! is an inaccuracy. Unfortunately after 14...Nxe3 15.Qxe3 Simon erred big time with 15...Qh4? when the Russian Super GM was ruthless, crashing through with 16.Bxf7+! Kxf7 17.Rxd7+ Ke8 18.Qd3 Bc6 19.Rd1 leaving him dominating the d-file and the game.

Yugoslav/Sozin Attack 2...Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 Bd7 7.Bb3 g6 8.f3 Na5 9.Bg5 Bg7 10.Qd2 h6 11.Be3 [B57/75]

Okay so the above is a rather bizarre move order to arrive at a plausible Dragon scenario and indeed is strictly speaking out of my jurisdiction, being afforded a ‘B57’ opening classification. Nevertheless, in this quiet World period in terms of slow play chess, I thought I might occasionally catch up on some historical moments of Dragon play by featuring some of the all-time greats involved in our favourite opening.

Well, where better to start than with many people’s candidate for the greatest player ever Bobby Fischer although the game Fischer, R - Gligoric, S is a somewhat mysterious one. I do discuss the game move order of 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 Bd7 7.Bb3 g6 8.f3 Na5 9.Bg5 Bg7 10.Qd2 in the annotation but of most interest is the decision that White makes after 10...h6 11.Be3 Rc8 12.0-0-0 Nc4:

These days in this type of scenario, strong players would automatically continue with 13 Bxc4 Rxc4 14 Kb1 (or maybe 14 g4) and as we know from the similar ‘Anti-Soltis’ system sit comfortably with a nice advantage. However Fischer, already rather good at the age of 16, opted to be creative through 13.Qe2 Nxe3 14.Qxe3. Black should really have been trying to exploit White’s lack of a dark-squared bishop through either 14...Qb6!? (threatening ...e5) or the same move after 14...0-0 15.g4. Instead he plumped for 15...Qa5 but the exchange sac on c3 was never promising whereas after 16.h4 e6 17.Nde2 Rc6 18.g5 hxg5 19.hxg5 Nh5 20.f4 Rfc8 21.Kb1 Qb6 22.Qf3 Rc5 23.Qd3 Bxc3 24.Nxc3 Nxf4 25.Qf3 Nh5, White’s 26.Rxh5! went down a treat!

Yugoslav Attack 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 e5 13.Bc5 Be6 14.Ne4 Re8 15.h4 h6 16.g4 Qc7 17.g5 h5 18.Qe1 [B76]

Another welcome edition to this month’s update is a battle between two old foes and what a victory for the Dragon it turned out to be.

Specifically 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, Kramnik, V - Ivanchuk, V featured the ‘old’ main line of 12...e5 (i.e. after we decided 12...Bxd4 13 Qxd4 was now seemingly superseding it!) 13.Bc5 Be6 14.Ne4 Re8 15.h4 h6 16.g4 Qc7 17.g5 h5. All theory that we have covered plenty of times before on the site until the rare 18.Qe1 occurred:

18 Bc4 is standard but as transpired through 18...Nf4 19.Bd6 Qb6 20.Bc5 Qc7 21.c4?! it became clear that Vlad was reserving that square for his pawn. However amongst other things my obvious objection to this move is that it doesn’t really do ‘as it says on the tin’ in so far as it doesn’t really deprive Black access to the d5-square as somewhat highlighted by the fact that Black responded with 21...Bd5 All fascinating stuff but although White was the one avoiding repetitions, after 22.Bd6 Qb6 23.Bc5 Qc7 24.Rh2 Bxe4 25.Bd6 Qc8 26.Qxe4 c5! 27.b4 Bf8 28.bxc5 he had overstepped the mark. Black slowly came forward and in 28...Qa6 29.Rb2 Qa3 30.Kb1 Bxd6 31.cxd6 Rab8 32.Rb7 Red8 33.c5 Qxc5 34.d7 Nd5!! it was a neat finish to the game.

Yugoslav Attack 9.Bc4 Nd7 10.0-0-0 Nb6 11.Bb3 Na5 12.Qd3 Bd7 13.h4 Rc8 14.h5 Nbc4 [B77]

This month is a bit of a 9 Bc4 Yugoslav Attack 9...Nd7 variation and we kick off with a good old fashioned over the board slow play game again involving the great Bobby Fischer.

This time in Fischer, R - Purevzhav, S after 9.Bc4 Nd7 10.0-0-0 Nb6 11.Bb3 Na5 Fischer opts not to part company with his dark-squared bishop, this time safeguarding it with what has become the main choice 12.Qd3. Then upon 12...Bd7 he got straight to the point with 13.h4 Rc8 14.h5 Nbc4 15.hxg6 when Black opted to recapture with 15...hxg6?!:

Actually quite a few strong players have played this in the past and a few on more than one occasion. Throw in the desire not to be pinned along the b3-g8 diagonal and it is understandable why Black might want to minimise his number of pawn islands. However leaving the h-file open is too risky and instead as I explain in the notes, it seems to me that recapturing with the f-pawn is a better choice.

Indeed here I think 16 Bg5!? is strong now but White takes the most direct approach in 16.Bh6 when Black definitely errs through 16...e6? 17.f4! (simply looking to transfer the queen to the h-file) 17...e5 allowing the crushing blow 18.Nf5! and Fischer breaking through in trademark fashion.

Yugoslav Attack 9.Bc4 Nd7 10.0-0-0 Nb6 11.Be2!? [B77]

My first ever chess book was ‘Fischer-Spassky move by move’ which I used to love reading each night and come to think of it not too long after that my first chess computer was ‘Chess Challenger’, a cumbersome thing where you had to manually move the pieces on a sensory board. It would take a long time to respond with not especially great quality moves but the following two games are rather a big indication of how things have changed!

So we’re talking the superfinal of season 18 of the TCEC championships and to kick us off we have the first of two games in which the cream of the cream of chess engines were ‘forced’ to play a two game mini match in the 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 Nd7 Dragon.

Subscribers will be aware that this will make four games of their type that I have analysed in the last two updates and the quality is truly immense. What I especially like is that the computers are not lead by what humans have decided on as theory or main lines with first up in LCZero v0.25.1-svjio-t60-3972 - Stockfish 202006170741 White after 10.0-0-0 Nb6 not automatically dropping back to the natural b3-square from where the bishop pins the f7-pawn but rather plumps for 11.Be2!?:

As it happens this retreat has been played on nine times fewer occasions in practice than 11 Bb3 but with better results. Moreover plenty of higher rated players have gone with this retreat including now of course a 3813 rated machine!

On e2 the bishop still covers the c4-square but the point is that if now persistent in his desire to park a knight on that square through either 11...Na5 or 11...Ne5, then White can comfortably respond with 12 b3, a move not of course possible with a bishop there!

The negative side of retreating the bishop to e2 is the lack of control over the d5-square and hence why Black's response of 11...d5 is thematic.

In the annotations I go on to make a comparison between this and the 9 0-0-0 d5 variation but the bottom line here is that after 12.Nxc6 bxc6 although generally Black would be quite happy with this situation of a bolstered pawn centre, the problem is the position of the knight on b6 as opposed to f6. Not only does it offer no defence where currently placed but also it kind of obstructs Black's own attacking aspirations. Obviously it would love to make a home for itself on c4 but that's not an option yet and meanwhile placed where it is, it prevents the black queen from swinging out to a5 and also it hinders swift b-file action.

Play continued with 13.h4 Qd6 14.h5 dxe4 15.hxg6 Qxd2+ 16.Rxd2 hxg6 17.Nxe4 Bf5 18.c4 Bxe4 19.fxe4 Rfd8 20.Rhd1 when with the bishop pair advantage White went on to comfortably convert the ending.

Yugoslav Attack 9.Bc4 Nd7 10.h4 h5 [B77]

Clearly LCZero has a good ‘feel’ for Dragon positions because the game Stockfish 202006170741 - LCZero v0.25.1-svjio-t60-3972 is even more impressive.

This time 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.Bc4 Nd7 White decides that given he may only need one rook on the h-file to deliver mate, he’ll get straight on the case of checkmate and forego castling in favour of the immediate 10.h4:

Fair enough but what follows is simply amazing as I explain how previously in documented outings of this position Black (typically with the standard idea in mind for this system of getting a knight to c4) has responded with 10...Nb6 on 291 occasions and 10...Nde5 on 36 occasions. There was just one outing (involving sub 2000 rated players) with the provocative looking 10...h5 but we can now make that two!

Yes without the typical grasp of the g4-square that is afforded to Black in the Soltis variation, Black (seemingly a tad optimistically!) decides that he will stop White’s h-pawn in its tracks and thwart White’s attacking ambitions! I have to admit that I was flabbergasted and given Black had removed a key defensive piece from his kingside, immediately set to work on investigating the likes of 11 g4 hxg4 12 h5 and other sharp lines only to uncover the delightful array of tactics that Black has at his disposal with this different arrangement of pieces.

Instead White played calmer with 11.0-0-0 when 11...Qa5!? kind of threw my old favourite system into the mix alongside the 9...Nd7 line and the Soltis! Yes, a bit of a mix n match and the fun was only just beginning with 12.Kb1 Qb4 13.Nd5 Qxc4 14.b3 Qxd4 15.Bxd4 Nxd4 16.Nxe7+ Kh7 17.c4 a5! leading us into what was truly an incredible game in which clearly Black was never in trouble! Or is that ‘!?’ or ‘?!’, who knows?

Best wishes, Chris

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