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What’s new this month is old! Yep, a return to our favourite opening for a couple of my childhood Dragon heroes who demonstrate how you can grind out those wins even from objectively (engine assessed!) small disadvantages. Prior to that it’s ‘Accelerated Dragon city’ with even there it being a good month for Black. The fire is still burning!

Download PGN of July ’22 Dragon Sicilian games

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Accelerated Dragon 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 0-0 8.Bb3 Re8 9.h3 d6 10.0-0 Na5 11.Qd2 a6 [B35]

Following 1.Nf3 c5 2.e4 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Bg7 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 0-0 8.Bb3 the Negi promoted idea of 8...Re8 remains popular and following 9.h3 d6 10.0-0 Na5 11.Qd2 in Sjugirov, S - Abdusattorov, N we see our second example in a short time of 11...a6 rather than 11...b6.

Black’s early rook nudge was put to good use after 12.Bh6 Bh8 with Black deciding after 13.Rfe1 to delay the clearly prepared 13...b5 in favour of 13...Qc7 It’s debatable whether White rushed in with 14.Nd5 but 14...Nxd5 15.Bxd5 e6 16.Bb3 b5 17.c3 Bb7 18.Nf3 Rad8 19.Rac1 Nc4 20.Bxc4 Qxc4 21.b3 Qc8 22.Bg5 Rd7 23.h4 Qa8 24.Qe3 Bg7 25.h5 gxh5!? left chances for both sides in a game that could certainly have gone either way.

Accelerated Dragon, Maroczy Bind 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.e5 [B36]

A little while back I discussed the concept after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 of 8.e5 dxe5 and then 9 Qxd8+. I revisit that possibility in the notes to the game Bernadskiy,V - Nogerbek, K but instead it was the simple recapture 9.Qxe5 that the Ukrainian GM opted for:

I can’t believe this could really offer anything and indeed after 9...Bg7 White furthermore decided that he would extract his queen from the potential firing line of the Dragon bishop through 10.Qb5+. So many queen moves and as Black I would definitely be tempted by 10...Bd7!? 11 Qxb7 Rb8. Not so Black here although to be fair 10...Qd7 11.Be2 0-0 12.0-0 Qxb5 13.cxb5 Bg4 14.Bc4 Rac8 15.Bb3 Rfd8 16.Re1 e6 17.h3 Bf5 was absolutely fine too.

Accelerated Dragon, Maroczy Bind 6...Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.Be2 Bg7 9.Bg5 0-0 10.Qd2 Be6 11.0-0 Qa5 [B36]

Following 1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.e4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.Be2 Bg7 9.Bg5 0-0 10.Qd2 in Nenezic, M - Bogosavljevic, B we see Black eschew the fashionable (and quite successful) 10...a5 in favour of 10...Be6 11.0-0 Qa5 with Black looking to target c4 but ultimately achieve the ...b5 break. Instead of the c3-knight supporting 12 Rac1 we see the slightly different 12.Rad1 and after 12...Rfc8 13.b3 a6 14.f4!? b5 15.f5 it’s game on!

Logical is 15...b4 16.fxe6 bxc3 17.exf7+ when the big question is whether for now Black should take or leave that f7-pawn. Deciding on cover rather than holes and king exposure, through 17...Kf8 it was the latter that was opted for here with 18.Qe3 Qc5 19.e5 Ne4?! 20.Qxc5 (20 Rd5! looks stronger) 20...Rxc5 21.Be3 Rxe5 22.Bf3 Rb8 23.Bd4 Re6 24.Bxg7+ Kxg7 leading to an equal chances endgame that could have gone either way. Well, it did, that way being White’s although not before being worse first!

Accelerated Dragon, Maroczy Bind 5.c4 Nc6 6.Be3 Qb6 7.Nb3 Qd8 8.Nc3 Nf6 [B38]

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Bg7 5.c4 Nc6 6.Be3 Qb6 7.Nb3 Qd8 8.Nc3 we are used to Black mixing things up by taking on c3, conceding the Dragon bishop in order to compromise the White pawn structure. In Niemann, H - Abdusattorov, N however we see a different approach in 8...Nf6 Although Black has lost time toing and froing with her majesty, the argument is that White's knight is misplaced on b3 and in the firing line of an ...a5-a4 advance and we see that factor come into play after 9.Be2 d6 10.0-0 0-0 11.f3 Be6 12.Rc1 Nd7 13.Qd2 a5:

White then looked to get going on the kingside through 14.f4 but his space advantage there counted for little after 14...a4 15.Nd4 Nxd4 16.Bxd4 Bxd4+ 17.Qxd4 Qb6 18.Qxb6 Nxb6 as the endgame certainly didn’t look like a problem for Black. Indeed although 19.Nd5 Bxd5 20.cxd5 Rfc8 21.Kf2 should really be headed for a draw, Black tried for more through 21...f5 and was ultimately successful.

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

There is no way that I could have ignored the 9 0-0-0 d5 old main line encounter Cumming, R - Mestel, J as I used to follow English GM Mestel’s Dragon games when I was first learning the opening. Indeed it was a joy to see 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 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd4 e5 13.Bc5 Be6 14.Ne4 Re8 15.h4 h6 hit the board particularly as it transpired we have never featured 16.h5 g5 before on the site:

Indeed typically we are used to seeing White play g4-g5 with Black responding with ...h5 to keep those kingside files closed. Here instead after 17.g4, White dissuades the desired ...f5 thrust without relying on en passant and after 17...Qc7 18.Bc4 a5 19.a4 Red8 20.Qf2 Rab8 21.b3 we have another type of complex middlegame. Engines will like White but whilst it’s not easy for humans playing White to make progress, actually 21...Kh8 22.Rd2 f5 23.gxf5 Bxf5 saw Black looking to move forward. Yes White remains objectively better but following 24.Rhd1 Be6 25.Qh2 Qf7 and now the miscalculation 26.Ba3? Qxf3 27.Nxg5 hxg5 28.h6 Bf6 29.Rf1 Qe3, it was Black who would go on to win.

Yugoslav Attack 9.Bc4 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 11.Bb3 Qa5 12.0-0-0 b5 13.Kb1 b4 [B77]

I tell you this month felt like being back in the 1980s when I also came across the game Sebastian, D - Watson, W, yes involving another one of my childhood English dragon heroes. What’s more is 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.Bc4 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 11.Bb3 Qa5 12.0-0-0 b5 13.Kb1 b4 14.Nd5 Bxd5 15.exd5 Qb5 16.Qd3 (or 16 Rhe1) is a reasonably topical variation right now and so everyone could be happy!

Unfortunately I don’t think that Black can get away with keeping the queens on here but 16...Qxd3 17.Rxd3 Rfc8 18.Re1 Rc7 seems just fine to me and in fact after 19.Bf2 Kf8 20.Ba4 Rac8 21.Bh4 Nh5 22.Re4 Be5 23.Rxb4? Rc4! White found himself in trouble specifically with 24.Be1 Nf4 25.Ra3 Nxg2 26.Bc6 Rxb4 27.Bxb4 Rb8 28.c3 Bxh2 29.Rxa7 h5! leaving him struggling to stop the errant black h-pawn.

Best wishes, Chris

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